I have been very anxious about this album for quite some time. As I mentioned in my list of their best albums, I feel the Red Hot Chili Peppers have struggled without John Frusciante and with longtime producer Rick Rubin also departing, things were looking scary. Luckily they brought in Danger Mouse who I have liked because of his work with Gnarles Barkley and the Black Keys. This, in addition to Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich mixing, gave me hope that The Getaway might actually be a great album.
First, after listening through this record I think getting rid of Rubin might have been a smart decision. Obviously this is not to say Rubin was bad at his job, he produced all of their best stuff, but they had been working together for 25 years and it was time for the Red Hot Chili Peppers to move on with their sound. Danger Mouse definitely helped to bring the instrumentation to the forefront, giving Flea the most attention he has gotten in years, and also allowing drummer Chad Smith to do some interesting things as well. Even Josh Klinghoffer, while still no Frusciante, does his best work with the band here.
As for the lyrical content, I would actually compare The Getaway to Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool, as they both are semi-breakup records, occasionally diving into some other topics without affecting the tone. And yes, most of this album is reflective of the failed relationship between Anthony Kiedis and Helena Vestergaard, who was just 20 during their relationship. While it should be disturbing for me to think about someone who is older than my dad dating a woman who is my age, Kiedis does really sell his feelings about the relationship so you are not feeling that he did not care for her, and that he himself is disgusted by his decision.
This issue is addressed right away on the opening title track where the relationship is described as a “color coded crime” and that the loneliness associated with fame is what leads several celebrities to end up in these kind of relationships. This idea is also present in “Sick Love” where Kiedis, with some help from Elton John, seems to find their relationship sick in hindsight. And while I wish he played a larger role with his vocals, Elton does make the song fun. The funkiest song on here, “Go Robot,” also shows hints of self-deprecation, saying how he does not want to feel real emotions during sex, comparing himself to a robot. Similar to “Sick Love” it is a fun way to show some difficult feelings.
I also enjoyed the pair of slower, lyrically dense tracks with “The Longest Wave” and “Goodbye Angels.” I found Kiedis’ vocal delivery on the first of these was fantastic, conveying a much softer tone that he always saves for more personal songs like this. While not quite as good, “Goodbye Angels” succeeds in how the instrumentation continues to build throughout, before climaxing to bring some additional emotion. The final minute of instrumentation is also a great end to this track. Lyrically the song has some flaws (“Pick up the stick it’s time to get hit with ayo ayo ayo ayo my bat”) but nothing completely unforgivable.
Outside of the songs that are clearly focused on this breakup, emotions are heavy throughout the entire record. The Chili Peppers’ seem aware of this, as their first single “Dark Necessities” focuses on how it seems the band have been able to use all the dark moments of their career as influence for their greatest content. After thinking about songs like “Under the Bridge,” “Scar Tissue,” “Callifornicaiton,” and many more, it becomes inarguable that darkness is part of their design. They continue to reflect here, with songs like “Feasting on the Flowers,” a matured tribute to Hillel Slovak, the band’s founding guitarist who overdosed back in 1988. “The Hunter” sees Kiedis reflecting on his relationship with his father, who he sees getting older and more out of touch. He refuses to let this make him feel like he is his father’s caretaker, however. The horns that outro this song are dark and ominous, giving the track a haunting feel to it. And of course, the album closer “Dreams of a Samurai” is an incredible way to wrap up this record. It ties many of the themes of the record together in a well written way, with amazing instrumentation to accompany it.
Outside of a couple moments, such as “Detroit,” the would have been better left off this record, this is a well-constructed, very consistent album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and probably their best without Rick Rubin. I was happily surprised by the quality of this album and I hope they have a couple more great record left in them. This definitely gives me hope.
Best Tracks: The Getaway, Dark Necessities, The Longest Wave, Sick Love, Go Robot, Feasting on the Flowers, The Hunter, Dreams of a Samurai
Worst Track: Detroit