Like being an NFL linebacker, being a Red Hot Chili Pepper is a challenging gig to age gracefully in; literally or metaphorically, tube socks on your johnson ain’t a good look at 50. To their credit, the Peppers’ 11th LP is a bold attempt to jibe their past party-dog selves with their present-day artistic ambitions – not always a perfect fit but a compelling one.
With production by Danger Mouse, and Radiohead sixth man Nigel Godrich on the mix, the sound is top-shelf modern-rock splendor: shimmering guitar fractals, flashing string arrangements, artisanal rhythmic flourishes. Yet Flea’s bass still grounds the music, as sinewy as Iggy Pop’s musculature, with Anthony Kiedis dirty-romanticizing L.A. as he macks his way through. There are surprising moves (the Chic-cum-Daft Punk mash-up “Go Robot,” the grind- ing blues rock and shout-out to late producer J Dilla in “Detroit”) and also familiar flourishes (the plodding rap rock of “We Turn Red”). Lyrically, the vibe is often wistful. On the ambient nostalgia trip “Encore,” Kiedis invokes the Beatles, while the sultry psych-funk jam “Dreams of a Samurai” finds him naked in the kitchen of a woman “too young to be my wife” and subsequently “taking acid in the graveyard.” As visions of mortality go, sounds promising.