• ''The Pale Fluffy Bubble Teas present The Sleep Away'' - A review of Red Hot Chili Peppers' ''The Getaway''

    Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Getaway (2016)

    First things first, I have been a faithful Red Hot Chili Peppers fan since my youth and own all their studio records plus a few compilations and live cuts and there isn't one single record I find just average or even boring. I'm a sucker for the band's drug-influenced mixture of funk, punk rock and rap with a few metal elements on records like ''Freaky Styley'', ''Blood Sugar Sex Magik'' and ''One Hot Minute'' but even the more recent, intellectual and mature outputs had a certain charm and especially the creative, diversified and emotional last output ''I'm With You'' and its extra tracks released on vinyl were truly impressive. If you read this type of introduction, you might already see it coming. I'm having a lot of trouble appreciating the band's new output ''The Getaway''. I wouldn't be as harsh to say that this record sucks but it's definitely the band's worst studio record so far. It's painfully average and at times really boring which is probably even worse than a failed experiment for a band that rose to fame by putting socks on their penises on stage. To give you a more precise idea about this new record, imagine a less inspired version of ''By the Way'' minus its few more rocking tunes.

    I guess new producer Danger Mouse is to blame for the final result. The band had worked with Rick Rubin for more than two decades and released six highly influential albums before they decided they needed a change of routine and a new collaborator who would push them to try out new things. In theory, this sounds like a good idea for a band that represents the term ''crossover'' better than any other band around the world. The band had already a whole new record ready to record but their new producer challenged them to make a completely different album with him. Danger Mouse is more than just a producer on this album since he has numerous song writing credits and performs Mellotron, organ and synthesizers on more than half of the songs. Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich mixed the album which includes string sections, female background singers and choirs and it barely sounds like a rock album. I wasn't expecting a heavy metal record but I wasn't expecting a grown-old soft rock compilation which is almost entirely composed of mid-tempo half-ballads. Gone are the ferocious hard rocking solos. Gone are the vivid rhythm sections. Gone are the wild vocals mixing hysteric screams with angry rap parts. What we have hear is a harmonious, peaceful and ultimately boring record that might please female teenagers who have fallen in love with a sunny boy during their summer vacation but not those who are expecting some rock 'n roll.

    On the positive side, this record definitely has a special vibe and soul and a clear guiding line. The band doesn't repeat itself and tries out something new which is always positive in my book. The guitar work sounds like a mixture of soft psychedelic rock of the seventies with a few Hawaiian folk sound inspirations. The bass guitar adds some light and sometimes danceable funk sounds while the drum play isn't doing anything more than adding relaxing beats in the background. This peaceful structure is enriched with soft string parts, a few Mellotron, piano and synthesizer sounds and inoffensive female background vocals and occasional choirs to fill the emptiness. The main vocals always sound the same and are exclusively based upon melodic and calm mid-tempo patterns. As always, the predictable lyrics are either about personal relationships or praise the state of California as it has been the case since ''Californication'' where the band already started to lose some of its unique energy. Maybe the Red Hot Chili Peppers have become so smooth, old and calm that they should call themselves the Pale Fluffy Bubble Teas now. At least the band's current live performances are as poignant as ever.

    The mixture described above works well for a handful of songs. Title track and opener ''The Getaway'' has a peacefully hypnotizing and numbing sound and works well as an airy and dreamy lullaby inspired by pop music of the eighties. First single ''Dark Necessities'' has a really positive vibe and a few catchy vocal lines transmitting a healthy dose of lust for life despite a melancholic undertone. After these two songs, one expects a change, an experiment or at least a more vivid tune but none of the above ever happens. Some songs are barely saved by a few inspired guitar solos towards the very end like ''Goodbye Angels''. The most boring song on here is probably the mellow ''Encore'' which rather sounds like a sonic farewell that has no redeeming song writing qualities whatsoever. ''The Hunter'' is only slightly better thanks to a harmonious combination of psychedelic slow-motion guitar riffs and melancholic piano and string sounds but the track goes nowhere at all while the bassist and drummer must have been mentally absent during the recording of this tune. I guess the hunter in this story fell asleep and didn't shoot any animals. ''The Longest Wave'' isn't much better and sounds so streamlined that it is the sonic antithesis of an actual wave. 

    Aside of the charming lead single and the acceptable title track, only two songs are worth to be mentioned as positive elements on this repetitive output. The entertaining ''Go Robot'' reminds of a commercially flavored funk rock tune of the eighties with some spacey synthesizer sounds of the seventies that surprises with some absurd and amusing lyrics. ''This Ticonderoga'' has a few vivid genre changes and features some heavier riffs that meet psychedelic guitar sounds and even the vocals vary slightly and include minimal spoken word parts and a liberating shout at the end. All these songs would have been the calmest on a Red Hot Chili Peppers record twenty years ago but today they almost feel like nostalgic outbursts of emotions.

    In the end, this record is interesting for three types of fans or situations. This record offers some smooth background music while relaxing with your girlfriend in front of a campfire on a Californian beach at night during on a road trip. Nostalgic soft rock aficionados with a weakness for the hippie spirit might also enjoy this release. Die-hard fans and collectors of anything the Red Hot Chili Peppers have released might also find a few redeemable features after multiple spins. Since I won't do a road trip to California and don't want to be a hippie, I guess the last category is the one that represents me best. Well, at least the cover artwork is really inspiring. To be completely honest and serious though, ''The Getaway'' is probably one of this year's most disappointing releases for me. Now I'm going to wash my ears with a few spins of ''Mother's Milk''.

    Final verdict: 60%

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