For some inexplicable reason, there’s been a huge spike in demand for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2016. It’s probably the repercussion of their silence for near enough half a decade, but even so, there’s not been this much interest shown in the Californians for a long while, partly because their last handful of albums didn’t have much to really be interested in. Still, with just their UK itinerary having massive headline sets for both T In The Park and Reading & Leeds pencilled in, the Red Hot Chili Peppers may at last be regaining their grip on how to be a band again.
And then along comes The Getaway to ruin any such notion. This could well be the most lifeless, bland album of Chili Peppers’ entire career, and while their ever-increasing age may be a factor (three of the four members are past the half a century mark), that can’t be an excuse to give them a free pass. Take the Foo Fighters for example, who aren’t that far behind in terms of age and are still making exhilarating music to this day. The Getaway just constantly limps along, almost as if it’s begging to be put out of its misery.
But perhaps the worst thing is how much potential was squandered here. Lead single Dark Necessities may be a world away from this band’s best, but it at least hinted at the return of Flea’s rubber-legged basslines that had been more or less absent from their past few releases. Too bad that’s one of the few prominent instances on this album – The Getaway seems to go out of its way to come across as dull as possible. As lacklustre as 2011’s I’m With You was, tracks like Look Around at least had a bit of life to them – for the vast majority of this album’s almost hour long runtime, it feels so one-paced, dragging itself by with very little drive or intent. Tracks like The Longest Wave and Encore sound particularly amorphous, drifting with next to no direction on spindly instrumentation that fails to establish itself as a presence.
It’s a shame, because The Getaway does have its highlights. Danger Mouse’s production job offers a lot more clarity and variety thanks to additional strings and pianos, and there are still the wacky lyrical directions of the Chili Peppers of old (the Alice Cooper and Henry Ford lines on Go Robot and Detroit respectively are at least worth a smile). In terms of individual songs, Dark Necessities and Go Robot both have a great strut thanks to their basslines (the latter especially which adopts an almost disco guise), and Feasting On The Flowers actually sounds chilled out as opposed to boring in its subtle but interesting guitar line.
But more often than not, The Getaway shoots itself in the foot by missing a suitable presentation mark by a massive degree. It’s mostly populated by forgettable, stagnant tracks, especially towards the album’s end with the completely unlikable pair of The Hunter and Dreams Of A Samurai, but even so, there are moments that can feel strangely heavy-handed, like the clunky drums of We Turn Red, or the completely incongruous tonal shifts of This Ticonderoga. It’s a weird album, in that the band seem to have lost all idea of how an album actually functions, instead opting to try everything regardless of whether it’s successful or not. And most of the time, it’s not.
Still, in the long run it really doesn’t matter how The Getaway is perceived. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are at that bulletproof stage in a band’s career where they’re pretty much immune to critical backlash in terms of widespread popularity. And when viewed in that respect, it’s likely that this album will be looked at with more kindness and complacency than others, even though it really doesn’t deserve it. The Getaway ultimately feels like a perfunctory album, one shovelled out with the sole intent of quenching a thirst for new Chili Peppers material. And while it does meet that criteria, the taste it leaves is a bitter one.
For fans of: The Beatles, Coldplay, Oasis
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Getaway’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers is out now on Warner Bros. Records.