Veteran funk rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers are back with their 12th album Unlimited Love. This record marks a few comebacks, namely Rick Rubin on production duties, last seen on 2011s The Getaway, and the in-out John Frusciante on guitar. The hokey cokey axeman has returned to the fold for an album that has stormed to the top of the charts and been heralded as a red hot return to form.
The musicianship on show is great and the chemistry is self-evident, but the record is too long and too dull. Over the 73 minutes and 17 tracks there are some good moments but nothing with any snap and bite. Among the highlights are Flea‘s chunky bass lines and Chad Smith‘s drumming, with the heavy groove and hypnotising beat of ‘Here Ever After’ a prime example of both.
Lead single ‘Black Summer’ is a slow burning, melancholic number that won’t live long in the memory. ‘Poster Child’ is a low key funk track, with Keidis throwing pop culture references left, right and centre – from Judas Priest and The Queen to Mona Lisa and Chubby Checker. Both pleasant numbers, the latter more so, with soft yet crisp production but they lack staying power and any real spark. The rockiest track here ‘These Are the Ways’ – with soft verses giving way to crashing drums and distorted blasts of guitar – is a nice change of pace, but one bereft of hooks.
Quite a few of the songs come across as jam sessions, with a heavy emphasis on groove – ‘The Great Apes’ is one such number and is largely forgotten once it’s over, bar Frusciante’s ferocious solo. ‘It’s Only Natural’ has an entrancing melody, with the main selling point being the attention grabbing bass line. ‘Veronica’ has a rich vein of melancholy running through it, as Keidis sings about love – but its soft and subtle charms are quickly forgotten. These slight rays of light get lost in a vast sea of mediocrity, like Iron Maiden’s recent output things would be improved if they rained themselves in a bit, a shorter run time and a bit of brevity wouldn’t go amiss.
The Chili’s first album in six years is a great reflection of the chemistry and musicianship within the band, but it is too long, bland and bloated to recommend.