Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Brendan's Death Song

by Chris Chhoeun

Following a two year hiatus after a world tour in 2006,  the L.A rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers dropped their tenth studio album I’m With You.

Since long-time friend and guitarist John Frusciante left the band for personal reasons in 2009, the band joined with then 29 year old Josh Klinghoffer.

They immediately hit it off on the right foot, Klinghoffer saying “From day one, there was love, and that’s what you hear on the record.”

Brendan’s Death Song is one that caught my attention right away-- A lone melodic finger-picked guitar intro is a rare find as far as Chili Peppers songs go.

The song is a ballad and written for Brendan Mullen, a long-time friend of the band who had died just as the Chili Peppers began to write new material in 2009. Mullen died suddenly of a stroke.

Mullen’s first encounter with the Chilis came in 1983 when he booked to the band to play at Club Lingerie. Flea credits Mullen to be one of first real supporters of the Chili Peppers music.

“It’s a celebration,” said Kiedis.

The band is tight and on it’s game here, clearly focused on this homage. They build up slowly throughout the entirety of the track.

Kiedis’s vocals are particularly excellent in this song, easily hitting the notes on the higher end of his register throughout each verse.

The progression of guitar chords in the verses, combined with Kiedis’s melody line that seems to float effortlessly over Klinghoffer’s acoustic, come together with such, as cheesy as it sounds, beauty.

“And when you hear this you’ll know it’s your jam, it’s your goodbye.”

After about a minute of Kiedis and Klinghoffer serenading us, Flea and Smith slowly come in the background and lead to the chorus.

“Like I said, you know I’m almost dead, you know I’m almost gone.”

When I first heard this chorus, it literally gave me goosebumps. Kiedis gives it all he has, singing the tribute to Brendan. He’s not afraid of what’s going to come next after life; it’s a song less about fear and more about acceptance and resolution.

It’s kind of reminiscent of the way Kieidis and Flea used to live when they were younger, without a care of what anyone thought about them.

After the first chorus, the song continues into the second verse with the entire band playing, unlike most of the first when it was just axe and vocals.

Klinghoffer’s high-pitched background vocals eerily accompany Kiedis for this verse, and an eerie vibe that Mullen is singing the back vox.

After another round of the chorus, they go into an instrumental interlude of heavy, distorted eighth notes before powering into the final chorus and outro.

Kiedis is singing his heart out; I’ve literally never heard him hit notes so high on the staff. It’s like a final goodbye huzzah, very appropriate since Brendan passed only a few days after his 60th birthday.

“Let me live so when it’s time to die, even the reaper cries.”

The song slows and fades, with the the guitar ending on a glooming E minor chord; Brendan’s last moments of life before he stops breathing.

The melody sticks in your head like American cheese. If you haven’t already, I suggest giving the whole I’m With You a good listen.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Minus the Bear - Into the Mirror

by Chris Chhoeun

About to embark on a 10 year anniversary tour, five-piece American rock group Minus the Bear is a band that, without mainstream success, are already veterans on the indie rock scene.

With the 2010 record Omni, they aimed to capture their live energy onto the album. Since losing keyboardist/producer Matt Bayles and signing to a new label, the band focused Omni to be a mix of the dancey vibes from Highly Refined Pirates (2002) with the darker, heart-heavy lyrics of Planet of Ice (2007).

A good friend turned me on to these guys with the song “Into the Mirror”, and I’ve been hooked on their catchy melodies all summer long.

The song begins with a series of full-band hits, followed by a a light guitar triples that give the listener a falling effect. After a few bars of only drums and keys, the entire band comes in softly with long, sustained chords as the keys continue with the dissonant evenly spaced eighths. The combination of the two is hauntingly beautiful.

What I love about this track is how those two clashing sounds, erie 1970s Keith Jarrett- like sounds on the keys dominating over carefully layered guitar backing, fit so well with each other.

For an entire forty clicks, they slowly set the scene for vocalist Jake Snider to come with the first verse.

“They got a mirror for the ‘caine in the bathroom because nobody here knows when to stop/ But for now we’re just making out with door unlocked..”

The verse introduces us to a relationship between a man, who deals cocaine, and a woman, who does sexual favors for this man in return for cocaine. This man has strong feelings for her, and does not know he is being used.

The discrepancy is that the woman is in relationship with a different man. Snider refers to them as the “late crowd”, those who continue partying and substance abuse beyond good limits.

Unison hits from the intro bring the band back together for the chorus.

“You get what you pay for/ we could cost a lot/ you get what you pay for/ but we do it for the taste of a good high/ we do it for the sake of a hot night.”

The story continues with the second verse and chorus.
The song takes a turn as two lone guitar harmonies bring us into a dream-like bridge section. Rachel Flotard, guest singing on the track, serenades us with her elegant melody.

“She senses the fear in him, with an irresistible kiss and a lie she hangs on his neck like a silver chain to her whim. Pull him into the mirror again.”

As the axe rhythms begin to quicken and take over, and the drums follow suit. The following part features a wah-driven guitar solo and an off beat double hat rhythmic drum pattern. It’s comes together in this very chaotic yet graceful balance, representative of the situation at hand.

After Flotard hits us again during the hullaballoo, and the track concludes by leading back to the main keys riff, and we feel like we’ve awoken from a dream, like we’ve come down from a good high.

The track “Animal Backwards,” is synth-heavy second part of the story. It chugs along with the same keys line, and the very powerful “Caught in the pull of your green eyed glow/ I want to feel my skin in the snow,” the snow being the cocaine that all three depend upon.

For best listening, I recommend bumping “Into the Mirror” loudly while driving alone at night. Like me, you’ll find yourself inadvertently belting out the chorus.