Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #81: "Ethiopia" - Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers didn't have a big year in 2011, but I don't think anyone really expected them to. After guitarist John Frusciante's second departure, many people were rightfully worried. Upon Frusciante's first departure, the band picked up Dave Navarro, and the less said about that particular RHCP period, the better. Now, following departure number two, the Chili Peppers enlisted Josh Klinghoffer, himself a close friend of Frusciante and the rest of the band. Already a plus, right?

The band released I'm With You as their new official release sans Frusciante. The result was jumbled and lacking something, and I think I know what that something is (hint: I've mentioned him quite a few times already). Thankfully, at least Klinghoffer's guitar work was not too far-removed from his predecessor's, making his entrance a more seamless transition than that of Frusciante to Navarro.

Most of the members of the band were still on their usual game, especially bassist Flea. His bass work stood out over Klinghoffer's more subdued style; it almost seemed as if the guitarist was content to relinquish a starring role to the bassist rather than go all out with his licks.

"Ethiopia" is a song in which Klinghoffer, Flea and the rest of the game are fairly evenly matched. Flea's bassline is catchy and bouncy, but Klinghoffer's riffs are sometimes mesmerizing. He's not as out on the frontlines with his playing as Frusciante was, but you can hear the Frusciante influence.

The chorus is where it's at here. Following a decidedly Chili Peppers-esque verse, the song explodes in a big way, with the band about as loud as it gets throughout the entire record.

But that's not all to listen to. Take time to appreciate Klinghoffer's subtle guitar stylings, some of which garner more appreciation with each listen.

This is a weird crossroad for RHCP. They've lost arguably the main driving force of their music, but in his place they have a guitarist who takes some pages from his predecessor, but with a subdued approach to his role in the band. Even though Klinghoffer is featured prominently in the song, his licks have the feel of a supporting-role performer, which was not always true of Frusciante.

Many enjoyed "Ethiopia" and the record it was on, with the album garnering the band a GRAMMY nomination. But despite its polarizing nature, I think many can agree on one thing -- this song is big, and it's good to see RHCP still taking that road on occasion.

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