One of the reasons the Chili Peppers have cemented their status as one of the biggest bands on the planet has been their ability to consistently deliver high quality albums which feature undeniably catchy, yet endearing songs that often carry a strong emotional weight and resonance. Yes, there’s usually the occasional filler track or two (or three) on their albums, but the magic of their best songs always steal the show and has helped elevate their music into truly beautiful realms at times.
But ever since the departure of their not-so-secret-weapon John Frusciante, there has been a distinct lack of that aforementioned magic in their sound. This should come as no surprise for long-time fans of the band, as it’s certainly no coincidence that their best albums (Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Californication just to name a few) all featured Frusciante on guitar. Replacing one of the greatest guitarists of their generation was no small order, and the growing pains were quite evident on the predictably underwhelming “I’m With You” released back in 2011.
New guitarist Josh Klinghoffer (a collaborator and protégé of Frusciante’s) sounded pretty timid on that album, which is somewhat understandable considering the huge shoes he had to fill. The rest of the band sounded a bit lost as well as they attempted to gel with their new guitarist, resulting in a pretty uneven and disappointing album, even considering the fact that Frusciante was out of the mix.
But now here we are a full 5 years later, with Klinghoffer having played countless shows with the band, one would think that would have provided ample time for the Chili’s to redevelop their chemistry and get back to producing high quality albums again.
Unfortunately, that’s not really the case on The Getaway. While the band does seem to have slightly better chemistry and a more well-defined sound this time around, it’s not a particularly compelling one for the most part. Similar to “I’m With You”, Flea’s bass is again at the forefront of most songs, while Klinghoffer seems slightly more confident this time around, displaying occasionally interesting/satisfying solos here and there. But, for the most part, Klinghoffer’s minimalist approach to his instrument really makes most of these songs sound too sparse and empty. The band attempts to make up for this with the occasional appearance of hand-claps, piano, or subtle electronic flourishes, but it does very little to inject any real sense of dynamics or spark into the band’s sound.
It’s not that Klinghoffer doesn’t show up on most of these songs, he’s technically there, but like his persona, he seems perfectly fine with hanging around in the background and avoiding the spotlight, content to let his guitar be as minimal apart of the process as possible. Granted, Frusciante’s guitar playing was often subtle at times, but his ear for melody and hooks is again sorely missed here.
Without this integral melody and energy in the music, Anthony Kiedis seems to be a bit lost at times as a vocalist, which makes some of the songs here fall a bit flat as a result (i.e.. “Sick Love”, “The Hunter”, and “Dream of a Samurai”). Similar to “I’m With You”, Mr. Mustachio is unable to cook up a truly memorable vocal melody on most of these songs. The notable exception of course is the lead single “Dark Necessities” which legitimately captures the type of unique warmth and intimacy that characterizes most of the Chili’s classic songs. On most other tracks, his choruses either just don’t quite work with the music or seem meandering/underwhelming at first, but with repeated listens they can start to grow on you to a degree.
A lot of the songs on “The Getaway” never quite fully take off or can’t quite stick the landing so to speak, but fortunately the one consistently good aspect of the music is Flea, who injects some funky, yet generally laid-back, infectious basslines into the mix early and often. He does this best on the pretty satisfying “We Turn Red”, and the band does get into a decent groove in the middle section of the album with the 1-2-3 punch (or should I say “gentle shoves”) of “Go Robot”, “Feasting on the Flowers” and “Detroit”. These are pretty good songs to bob your head to, and might potentially get you moving on the dance floor, but despite some mildly catchy vocals from Kiedis, there’s no real magic or anything particularly memorable in these tunes. That’s not to say this album is full of poor songs, it’s just that most of them are generally forgettable and fail to make much of an impression, which is fairly disappointing considering the consistency of great songs the band usually delivers on their albums.
At this stage of the game, with the majority of the band now in their 50s, it seems like the Chili Peppers are basically not out to impress on “The Getaway”, sounding somewhat tired and unmotivated. From a practical standpoint, this is understandable: they’re old, ridiculously wealthy, rock-hall-of-famers, etc (hence lack of motivation). Given that, unless Frusciante magically reappears down the road (he’s done that before mind you) the Chili’s seem destined for more modest/underwhelming albums for the foreseeable future, incapable of producing anything that rivals their glory days, or even the general “goodness” of their 2000s albums (which now seem like a distant memory).
Haven said that, upon repeated listens, you do start to garner an appreciation for the broader inconspicuous vibe of the album and its subtly enjoyable appeal. It’s a chill record that’s not interested in competing with the band’s past greatness, but rather delivering kind of a down-in-the-groove, easy-going, unassuming listening experience. It’s also a somewhat vapid experience at that, but perhaps with a little patience and proper expectations, this album could be a grower. Overall, “The Getaway” is probably a minor improvement over the disappointing “I’m With You”, but it’s still a long way behind all of their Frusciante albums.