Pilgrim’s Playlist: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jackson Browne



Recommended New Album

Red Hot Chili Peppers — The Getaway

Fun fact: Both the NBA and the NHL Champs this year changed their coaches in mid-season. Here’s the thing — sometimes you just gotta change things up. Maybe it will work out, maybe it won’t, but a fresh face at the controls can sometimes mean an immediate world of difference for any tight-knit group.

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This album is living proof of that. The Peppers recorded under the dynamic guidance of Rick Rubin for 25 years, clearing out a space on the Rock spectrum that is all their own. But the decision to work with Danger Mouse on this album was a helluva good one, bringing out the band’s A-game and refining their strengths across the board. I think it’s one of their best albums ever.

I hear people say that Danger Mouse aka Brian Burton has mellowed the RHCP sound on The Getaway, but I don’t hear it. The band has always delivered a balance of nice ballads amid the funky grooves, and that balance hasn’t changed that much. But here the songs are more tuneful and more focused in the songwriting, the arrangements, and the musicianship, and I think the producer deserves a lot of the credit.

Danger Mouse earned his fame working with artists like Beck, U2, Jay-Z and The Black Keys, developing a special knack for merging contemporary rhythms with lyrical and melodic templates from the 1970s – I would say a perfect formula to juice up the RHCP.

In terms of the songwriting, you can clearly hear his influence on songs like “We Turn Red” or “This Ticonderoga” which venture off into sonic excursions of intensity and tempo without falling off the rails. As for new musical textures, “Go Robot” has a Daft Punk feel that fits the Peppers like a studded glove. Josh Klinghoffer’s guitar sometimes sounds like Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, other times its thrashing garage punk chords. And we got pianos, man, pianos.

The mashup feel of the album hits its peak with “Sick Love”, on which the band collaborated with Elton John and Bernie Taupin. It’s like “Bennie And The Jets” on the Venice Beach boardwalk, you just can’t get any groovier.

And Anthony Kiedis continues to grow as a lyricist. There’s plenty of reflection and reminiscence — the lads are in their fifties now after all — but the thoughts are more coherent than ever before. He’s not afraid to deal with his own difficult past. The brilliant closer “Dreams of a Samurai” is pretty heavy shit, and also features an absolutely outstanding performance by the band. But ultimately the album is splashed with the hopeful sparkles of someone still looking and moving forward:

Listen to the Beatles and the sound of laughing Ed McMahon, we got high
Educated by a world so full of self and lost in space, too much pride
Cosmonauts and dirty thoughts are juggling the juggernaut, Soviet Spy
Every now and then when I remember to befriend the little things in life

With this album, I think the Red Hot Chili Peppers have established a springboard for the next phase of their career. Unlike some of my colleagues here at Rocknuts, I rank this band very highly in the Rock firmament — maybe around the mid- twenties on the list of greatest Rock Bands of All Time — and after hearing this album, I am thinking they may keep moving up my list in the years ahead.

 

 

One From The Vault

Jackson Browne – Under The Falling Sky (1972)

Long before the Mumfords strummed boldly onto the scene, “power folk” was the domain of the folk-rock mafia centered in Los Angeles in the early 1970s. Get a couple of acoustic guitars pounding, add bass and a keyboard, and you could Rock, baby, even without drums.

On a hot summer night my mind sometimes returns to this little feather of a song, where acoustic guitars and bongos drive the rhythm. It is as wholesome and innocent as the times, and pretty sexy too in an outdoorsy kind of way:

It’s a low road, a high wire going from me to you
And in your eyes the distance left is closing
I’ve got a feeling in my oceans
Blood underneath my skin
That into your bright fields this prison is opening

But best of all, it’s got one of the greatest guitar bits I’ve ever heard. As the song comes to its acoustic crescendo, Albert Lee rips this line on his toned-down electric guitar that makes my jaw drop every time I hear it. That’s what understated power is all about, and the Mumfords can’t touch it.

Photo credit: By original by flickr user xPassenger, changes by de:user:JD [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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One comment to “Pilgrim’s Playlist: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jackson Browne”
  1. Rich, this is great to hear about the new Peppers album. I’ll always think they’ll never be the same without John. However, the fairly positive buzz gives me hope that Josh does have a place to do great things.

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