Writing these blurbs served a therapeutic purpose.
Lilly Gray: Imagine, if you will, that you’ve been cornered by a witch. “Name this song or I’ll transform you into my very own hideous imp,” she demands. You accept, believing this to be an task that you might conceivably manage to best. She then hums the juicy bass line of Dark Promises. Sweat begins to gather on your brow. Get ready for a lifetime of servitude to a dark and fickle master, friend, because even if she takes pity on you and adds the sweet ooze of the nonsense lyrics and moebius strip piano, it’s basically indecipherable from every other RHCP song.
Brad Shoup: Van Halen’s “Right Now,” overwritten by a rippity-rapping serial killer. Yeah, Kiedis’s melodic gift — the way he colors his mush — is as good as it’s ever been. But I wish the Peppers had given the instrumental hues a little more time in the lamplight. There’s a really lovely descending guitar whine in the bridge, but it’s chained to Kiedis.
Taylor Alatorre: It takes chutzpah to pen lyrics this transparently bullshit. I try to ignore them and lose myself in the piano-driven groove like the band wants me to, but something about astronauts smoking weed comes up and the immersion is shattered. Just as the rote bass slaps are leading me to check out entirely, a polished and efficient chorus arrives to save the Chili Peppers from themselves. “Dark necessities are part of my design” — hey, we got Señor Kiedis to form a coherent thought! And I can even sing along if I wanted to, which I don’t, but still! So this is the latest in a long line of RHCP singles that scrape by on the backs of their surprisingly strong choruses. Given just how long that line is, though, can it really be considered surprising anymore?
Tim de Reuse: For the most part “Dark Necessities” is a smothered, half-baked chore, but there was potential here! Flea’s bassline is more percussive than the percussion section, more melodic than the lead guitar, and more expressive than anything in the lyrics by a country mile. He’s the only truly engaging element present, and when the song deigns to allow him a little elbow room he brings together a couple tight, satisfying verses. Unfortunately, someone thought that lush background strings and twinkly little piano interludes would be the perfect complement to that pure RHCP-funk-energy. This is not the case. (Actually, it makes a lot more sense if you imagine that everyone but Flea woke up ten minutes before recording and they were all just thinking about getting back to bed; this also nicely explains the groggy, phoned-in solo from not-John-Frusciante that closes it out.)
Alfred Soto: The silent majority — Chili Peppers fans keep the albums shipping platinum while never troubling the sleep of Anohni and Santigold fans. The flattening of Anthony Kiedis’ voice and the opening piano ripple augur gentler Peppers, but Flea can’t resist horning in with a solo, perhaps to compete with a line that sounds like “Socrates isn’t part of my design.”
Cassy Gress: I’m not questioning whether Anthony Kiedis is presently struggling with sobriety, and I don’t dispute that drugs are bad for you. However, the strung-out heat mirage of a song he wrote 25 years ago blasts this chilly, late-night highway groove out of the water.
Will Adams: The intro had me hooked, cultivating nervous energy through arpeggios and sixteenth notes in the bass. But then the groove locked in, I realized the handclaps and heavy blanket of piano were here to stay, and “Dark Necessities” descended to the level of “tepidly received Coldplay single.”
Alex Ostroff: “What would happen if RHCP replaced the tightly-wound nerves of yore with some jazz bar vibes and a piano interlude or two?” wondered precisely nobody.
Peter Ryan: If they were going to win me over in 2016 it would probably have to be with something like this — I was never altogether immune to their moodier, hookier charms, and I have a real soft spot for irrelevant adult contemporary-leaning rock. But, oh, don’t they sound exhausted, and this is in the running for Most Inane Specimen of Kiedis-Babble Ever. Danger Mouse Danger-Mouses, Flea’s trotting out his slap-happy gimmickry to placate the base, but none of it staves off the sense that not even they know why they’re doing this anymore.