The big story surrounding The Getaway is that, 25 years since the Red Hot Chili Peppers achieved their artistic and commercial breakthrough with studio guru Rick Rubin, they've finally opted to work with a new producer.
Rubin had become a bit like a fifth Chili Pepper — akin to George Martin's relationship with the Beatles or Nigel Godrich's with Radiohead — so this is a fairly drastic move for a band that has spent the past decade treading water, musically speaking.
This time, the combo worked with Danger Mouse, which makes sense given his experience in helping rock musicians embrace modern sounds (see the Black Keys, or Broken Bells co-founded James Mercer). The aforementioned Nigel Godrich handled mixing. The results fuse familiar-sounding funk buffoonery and melodic pop-rock with spacious sonic flourishes that rely on more layering than we're used to hearing from the RHCP.
Some of these new production elements propel the album's best moments. Title cut "The Getaway" juxtaposes its perky pulse with moody guitar tinkles, duet-style female vocals on the chorus, and a collage of synths and sighs that waft in and out of view. Single "Dark Necessities" sets its funky slap bass against a backdrop of elegant piano and lush orchestrations, and late-album highlights "Encore" and "The Hunter" introduce a haunting, nocturnal mood that's new ground for this perennially summery band.
Like every Chili Peppers album, the 13-track The Getaway suffers from bloat (the RHCP are still a CD-era band at heart). "Detroit" is an obnoxious funk tribute to the Motor City that includes clunky shout-outs to J Dilla, the Stooges and Henry Ford; it should have been left on the cutting room floor.
More importantly, though, there aren't any truly classic singles here. The pop smarts of classic-era guitarist John Frusciante are sorely missed, and his replacement Josh Klinghoffer (who formally took over in 2009) fails to turn in many memorable riffs; his best moment here is the overlapping guitar solos on the Elton John-featuring "Sick Love," and that's because it sounds exactly like something Frusciante would have written.
Still, it's a pleasure to hear the Red Hots dabbling in new sounds, and The Getaway's production has a novelty factor that makes its exciting for the many fans who have been following them for decades. The risk that they took in parting with Rubin clearly paid off. (Warner)