The Red Hot Chili Peppers made a name for themselves as a manic funk-rock band, with juvenile onstage antics and early-MTV-era hits like Give it Away. The band has evolved over its 28-year existence, winning critical acclaim with albums like Californication and By the Way. The praise abruptly ended with 2006's bloated, maligned, and unsuccessful Stadium Arcadium. Now, after their longest break between albums ever, the Chili Peppers are back with I'm Into You, released this week. Will the Chili Peppers' 10th studio album prove they've still got it?
Apparently, Peppers get better with age: "It's a rock 'n' roll miracle I'm With You is any good at all," says Jed Gottlieb at The Boston Herald. "Guitar god and mad pop genius" John Frusciante quit in 2009, and the "youth, drugs, and angst" that long fueled lead singer Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea have faded. Yet I'm With You is a good, even great, blend of "introspective, mature modern rock and joyful, wild, disco funk."
"'With You,' Chili Peppers reach back to better days"
Actually, the group is past its prime: Sure, aspects of the Chili Peppers' trademark sound permeate I'm With You, says Mark Beech at Bloomberg. Flea's "tight bass lines" and Kiedis's "knowing vocals" remain intact. But the album is too tightly edited and restrained to measure up to the band's more rambunctious and exciting early efforts. "Maybe these tattooed wrinklies are mellowing as they hover near 50."
"Red Hot Chilis blast back with guitar orgies, ugly fly"
And sorely misses its guitarist: I'm With You is "part beach blanket rave-up, part serious-minded examination of loss," says Allison Stewart at The Washington Post. Thematically, that loss refers to youth and innocence, but the big loss here is that of guitarist Frusciante. Over the years, he was the "primary driver of their funk-meets-pop-meets-sledgehammer sound." Subbing in, new lead guitarist Josh Klinghoffer is too subtle, creating a "milder and less emphatic" record than the Chili Peppers' greatest hits.
"Album review: Red Hot Chili Peppers, I'm With You"
Editor's Note: The photo caption in this article originally misstated how much time had passed since the Chili Peppers last released an album. I'm With You is the group's first album in five years. The photo caption has been corrected. We regret the error.