Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Getaway

Warner Bros

★★

Ever since they introduced me to their freaky styley ways in the mid-80s, I’ve been a huge fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Their classic Blood Sugar Sex Magik will forever remain a favourite but, since the departure of guitar god John Frusciante, the Californian funksters have edged ever closer to middle-aged blandness. The 2011 album, I’m With You, and a string of non-album singles took the fun out of their funk. But with hints of a new direction and, according to frontman Anthony Kiedis, “songs that I feel are as good as any songs we’ve ever written”, hopes were high for the band’s 11th album, The Getaway. The replacement of long-time producer Rick Rubin brings an immediate freshness, the title track displaying new boy Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton’s fondness for synths and hand claps, complemented beautifully by Josh Klinghoffer’s chiming guitar. However, while it’s hardly a sonic departure, the funk is muted, and after the opening three tracks, the album becomes mild and mediocre. Sure, Flea still slaps his bass like there’s no tomorrow and Kiedis spouts his entertaining pseudo-spiritual nonsense, but the ageing Chili Peppers haven’t made a daring getaway so much as lost their way.

Man With a Mission

The World’s On Fire

Sony

★★

Having been created by Jimi Hendrix as the “ultimate life form” to save the Earth from war, Japanese band Man With a Mission were then placed into a long, frozen sleep that saw them fall under the spell of evil. Awoken from their icy caskets by global warming and now seeking justice for the world, Kamikazi Boy, Spear Ribs, Jean-Ken Johnny, Tokyo Tanaka and DJ Santa Monica possess an appearance that rivals the fanciful backstory (check out their wolf masks when they take to the stage at Kitec, in Kowloon Bay, on July 29). Unfortunately, this alt-rock band don’t produce music half as entertaining as their bio. Their fourth album, The World’s On Fire, furthers their brand of manu­factured shouty rock, fusing dance-pop with the type or soaring choruses Linkin Park have built their careers on. Switching between melodic singing, a little rapping and the odd screamy bit, in both Japanese and English, the band drape conventional J-Rock melodies over basic Western rock compositions. That may well prove ideal for video-game or anime soundtracks but it’s hard to start a fire with something so polished.

Garbage

Strange Little Birds

Play It Again Sam

★★★★

Recorded in the basement of drummer and master producer Butch Vig, the sixth album from Scottish-American alt-garage outfit Garbage aims to bring a little darkness to the world’s “incredibly happy and shiny and poppy” musical landscape. A “romantic album”, according to front­woman Shirley Manson, Strange Little Birds has a more intimate feel than the band’s other recent recordings, and like many of today’s new wave of post-grunge bands, Garbage take inspiration from the sounds of the mid-90s. After all, it’s an era they know all too well – their multi­million-selling self-titled debut celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015. After opening with the ominous industrial trip-hop beat of Sometimes, the minimalist electro continues with If I Lost You, on which Manson sounds equally fierce and vulnerable. Both Night Drive Loneliness and Empty possess radio-friendly hooks as sharp as those that define their classic Stupid Girl. Bereft of any of that unwel­come upbeat poppiness, the dark and cinematic Strange Little Birds is the closest Garbage have come to evoking the mood of their glorious debut.