When it comes to the anatomy of a band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are cobbled together with strange and random parts — essentially the platypus of the rock‘n’roll kingdom. Their best musician is a bassist with a four-letter name who may or may not be the most skilled in the business. They’ve got an instantly recognizable singer with an average voice and a drummer who bears a very uncanny resemblance to Will Ferrell. But the oil that kept the funk machine rolling had always been guitarist John Frusciante, whose recent departure from the band has left an extensive void in what had come to be a formula for perfection.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

I’m With You
Warner Bros.

Raise your hand if you participated in the collective sigh that sprang from the deliverance of the album’s first single, “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie.” Such a release might make for an adequate deep track on an earlier record, but when it’s billed as a teaser for new material, the red flags should start to go up. Unfortunately, the catchy-but-tame song stands as the best on I’m With You.

Frusciante’s absence is obvious on the majority of the hour-long effort. Flea opens up “Ethiopia” with the grooving backbone of a bassline that fans have come to expect. However, new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer doesn’t pack the same punch as his predecessor, and leaves the track a bit too empty. “Factory of Faith” gives the impression that the Chili Peppers would rather rely on their mainstays and give Klinghoffer a supporting role — a strategy that can’t work for a band that relies on the added spice from a seasoned guitarist.

Everywhere you look on I’m With You, there are missed opportunities and instances of failed potential. However, the album could’ve been extremely successful under different circumstances — the emotion and talent are present, but the execution is lacking. “Brendan’s Death Song” brings authentic sorrow in the wake of the passing of longtime friend Brendan Mullen, and almost deserves to sit in the band’s trophy case with “Under the Bridge” and “Californication” — but not quite, since a fairly withdrawn guitar and a sedate opening could lead many a listener to skip it over. “Dance, Dance, Dance” rounds out I’m With You appropriately — the chemistry is palpably off, and the result comes off as jumbled.

Longtime fans of the Chili Peppers may find comfort in the evolution of the band’s sound. In a couple rare cases, such a progression pays off. “Even You, Brutus?” throws a smoky guitar under singer Anthony Kiedis’s agitation, transforming it into a fresh composite of funk and chagrin. On “Goodbye Hooray,” Klinghoffer rips off a few impressive, raw licks — even if the track itself fails to match the excitement.

When you look at the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ extensive discography, a pattern emerges: Their best work arises when Kiedis, Flea, Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith are the band’s core. Each of the five albums recorded by the power quartet has gone platinum and serves as the foundation for most of the band’s major hits. It should then come as no surprise that when one of those integral cogs is removed, the machine doesn’t function at full capacity.

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