For those of you reading this that don’t know me, I’m a huge fan of sound in general which, I guess, is pretty obvious based on the fact that I’m an audio engineer.
What maybe isn’t so obvious is how I look at sounds and what they mean to me, so I have decided to start a blog to give an insight into my world of sound and how I see it.
I am a huge Red Hot Chili Peppers fan and so to kick off the blog, I thought I would review their latest work “The Getaway”
The first thing I noticed about this record is how raw it sounds. The Peppers are not hugely know for a crisp ‘over produced’ sound but this is distinctively raw.
Let’s start with the drums. There isn’t a heck of a lot of ‘click’ or ‘top end’ in the kick drum and it sounds like it was probably not close mic’d but it gives a good low end thud and drives each song quite nicely, the snare is very interesting on this album as it is a complete 180 from what we know from a Chad Smith snare. Typically he likes to use a snare that has quite a quick and sharp attack and a nice high-mid range ring to it, this time around it has what I call a ‘biscuit barrel’ type sound. It matches the kick very nicely however and coupled with the ‘washy’ tone of the hats to go with it, the whole kit has a very old school, late 60s, early sound.
There are a lot of tonal similarities to the drum recordings of Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham from the late 60’s and early 70’s.
It sounds like Flea has opted to use a jazz bass for pretty much the whole album and he is able to get such a broad range of sounds out of it. Over the course of the last couple of albums he has moved away from that very hi-fi Modulus sound and is now more into a deep woody tone. Don’t get me wrong, I love those precise, tight bass tones on tracks like “Around the world” and “Get on top” from the Californication era but Flea has matched the drum tone very well with his choice of bass on this album.
Playing wise, Flea is still as groovy as ever but as he evolves he is finding more ways to expand his pallet. It has to be said that when he is not playing slap on this album he is not as outstanding as he has been on previous records.
Josh offers a lot more than his previous turn recording with RHCP and the guitar tones on this album are very ambient and offer something a lot different to what we are used to. He still retains that classic funk Strat tone that you expect to hear when you play a Peppers record but he is exploring his own techniques a bit more and has now found his place in the band. I feel the guitars are mixed quite low as there is quite a lot of competition for space in the mix.
Let’s explore that a bit more… We are used to hearing only 4 instruments on 90% of Chilis songs but on ‘The Getaway’ there is a lot of piano and synth sounds that have to be worked into the mix. The more instruments you have the more difficult it becomes to give each instrument its own space while also blending with the other instruments. ( This is where mix engineers really earn the money!!!)
While we are on the piano, let’s look at the use. In the past, the peppers have used the piano to compliment a song but this time around it is very much a dominant instrument which adds a whole new dimension to the Chili Peppers sound. It is very intriguing to listen to Flea play his piano lines, we are so used to an extremely energetic slap/funk/pop/punk bass player but Flea, the pianist, is something quite different.
Elton John makes a guest appearance on “Sick Love” but I am left wondering what he actually contributed on the track. For me, it’s a bit of an odd guest appearance that one.
If there is one thing that does let this album down a wee bit then it may just be the vocals. Anthony is probably the only guy to have not moved too far away from what he usually does and sometimes those higher notes seem like they may have taken a few takes to capture. There is a very cool Vocal Solo in the final track “Dreams of a Samurai” and we realise that Josh is actually a brilliant backing vocalist on this album too.
I am a huge fan of John’s vocals from previous albums and I feel that Josh is finally realising exactly what the peppers need when it comes to a secondary vocal.
Overall, I do like this new album and I can’t seem to take it off repeat in my car, I’m giving it a 7/10
Top Track: I Absolutely love “We Turn Red” but also don’t miss “Encore” and “The Hunter”