Veteran alternative rockers, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ latest single, “Goodbye Angels,” is a bittersweet groove. For this song, the band unleashes familiar themes and riffs that have sustained the group since the 1980s.
Red Hot Chili Peppers and the late 1980s
My introduction to Red Hot Chili Peppers came in 1989, when I saw their video for “Higher Ground.” The song was their version of the Stevie Wonder classic. What struck me and remains in my memory, is the band’s ability and willingness to stay true to the original’s funk and soul rhythm while infusing it with shout-y lyrics and rock riffs.
Anyone familiar with Red Hot Chili Peppers in the 1980s and 1990s knows that their work is composed of both irreverent and serious themes. Songs like “Suck My Kiss,” “Under the Bridge,” and “Love Rollercoaster” (a cover of the Ohio Players’ song) establish Red Hot Chili Peppers as a band capable of various moods and slightly shifting styles.
Red Hot Chili Peppers and “Goodbye Angels”
It has been more than ten years since “Dani California,” and almost 30 years since “Under the Bridge” taught audiences how Red Hot Chili Peppers treats dark subject matter. Singer Anthony Kiedis’ voice is a nuanced, baritone or low tenor, and its flexibility serves emotionally charged rock songs well.
One of the reasons deep songs by Red Hot Chili Peppers are successful is because they never stop being rock songs, despite their subjects. Red Hot Chili Peppers has a number of performance quirks that allow their music to stand the test of time, regardless of music trends.
Another trait of the Red Hot Chili Peppers that serves them well is their honesty. Even if the dark stories were made up, they sound true. The contemporary, dark stories are fine-tuned and perfectly crafted, like a beloved novel. “Goodbye Angels” has that same feel: Thoughtful and nuanced.
The lyrics refer to suicide in the first line, but as the song continues, it is clear it refers to a lost relationship of some kind. However, one of the admirable qualities of art is how it is open to interpretation. This could be a mourning song. The end of relationships, whether through death or alienated affection, requires a period of grief for most people. The almost surrealistic nature of the song’s lyrics lends a sense of aesthetics to the work, which never stops being a rock song, the other qualities are simply extra.
The song begins with a mid-tempo guitar for a few measures. The result is a moody atmosphere. Listeners know right away that this is not going to be one of the group’s party songs. Then, Kiedis begins to sing and his voice sounds a bit higher than I have heard it in a while. His delivery is fast, which is not unusual. His delivery is as crisp and slick as some rappers’. “Way too young/slave to none” is sung over and over. Depending on audiences’ interpretation, this is either a lament about a life lived too fast, or a person who refused to be contained in a relationship.
The chorus rises in pure rock and roll display. The bass solo is a nice touch, and the lyrics grow even more “arty.” Kiedis continues to distinguish himself as the Jack Kerouac of rock music.
Red Hot Chili Peppers have once again turned mourning into art. The band takes what hurts the most, what is in the need of the most honesty, and package it into a rock song. “Goodbye Angels” is a triumph. More than 30 years after their first album, Red Hot Chili Peppers continue to create meaningful rock music without gimmick or pretense.