This was a troubled album for the clothing-optional 1990s funkateers. Singer Anthony Kiedis came down with a nasty bout of intestinal flu during the recording, while bass player Flea broke his arm snowboarding (a very Chili Peppers-esque way to come a-cropper).
Back in the studio, things weren’t going any more smoothly. Working without producer Rick Rubin for the first time in more than a decade, the band shelved several records worth of material and for a while it seemed an open question whether the Chili Peppers would find the direction they were looking for. It all worked out in the end, however, with producer Danger Mouse refining rather than overhauling their signature blending of irascible funk and alpha-dude ennui (only the Chili Peppers could make being shirtless and sad a thing).
They evoke the downbeat majesty of their signature dirge ‘Under The Bridge’ on brooding, piano driven single ‘Dark Necessities’ and reveal themselves as closeted seventies soft rockers on ‘Sick Love’ (which, incredibly, was co-written by Elton John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin).
Further surprises await as they channel Daft Punk channelling Chic on ‘Go Robot’ and get all bluesy on ‘Detroit’. Only the clunking ‘We Turn Red’ spoils the fun.
There are many reasons to dislike the Chili Peppers: their non-ironic braggadocio; the iffy tattoos; their celebration, deep in middle age, of the fratboy within. But their music has always been smart and even experimental. With Danger Mouse astutely coaxing the group in new directions, they’ve sweated out their finest long player since the late ’90s.
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