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.