“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”
I was a Freshmen in high school when the Red Hot Chili Peppers released the music video for “Scar Tissue”. Watching John Frusciante play that final solo while sitting in the back of a 1967 Pontiac Catalina as the sun sets in the Mojave Desert perfectly personified the feelings of angst and loneliness that everyone feels as they go through puberty. Or, at the very least, the feelings I felt. I immediately went into my bedroom and began learning the song, eyes closed, picturing myself riding away under the same sunset, hopefully to a place adolescent wounds would quickly become scar tissue. “With birds, I’ll share this lonely view” indeed.
To revisit that music video, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzJj5-lubeM
Since then, I’ve followed the career peaks and valleys RHCP religiously, devouring every album.
Seventeen years, four albums, and a guitar player later (I’ll save my thoughts on John Frusciante for another blog post), the Red Hot Chili Peppers have released another soulful single, arguably their most soulful since “Scar Tissue”. And just like any piece of art that is truly soulful, there are some unsettling elements.
The song begins with a RHCP trademark: Guitar and bass harmonize in a rhythm so tight, you forget you’re hearing two different instruments while Chad Smith builds a breakbeat, towing the line between funk and rock to flirtatious heights. The song immediately feels warmer than any Chili Peppers song since their 2002 album, By the Way, forcing us to let our guard down. Next, the piano riff and “wah” guitar swell, then give way to soaring harmonies in the chorus, invoking Stevie Wonder in his prime. Credit mastermind producer, Danger Mouse, for reinventing their sound. Because of him, The Red Hot Chili Peppers sound relaxed, comfortable, and paradoxically energized as a bad entering the latter stages of their career.
While you can’t help but sing along to the chorus, don’t let the ear candy full you. Kiedis gives forewarning when he beckons, “You don’t know my mind/ you don’t know my kind/ dark necessities are part of my design.” Later, right around the 2:48 mark, as RHCP break into a dance-inducing bridge, we almost believe that Keidis is selling us a fairy-tale ending. But longtime RHCP fans know, it’s never that innocent. During the bridge, Keidis concedes“darkness helps us all to shine”. My adolescent self would’ve been intrigued and terrified at the same time.
I will never argue that Keidis is a brilliant lyricist, on par with Dylan, Lennon, Cash, or even contemporaries, like Boyd. He does, however, have a way of putting the icky mess, that is the natural human state into a song that you can sing and dance to. A spoonful of sugar… and all of that.
The “Dark Necessities” music video (or song for that matter) doesn’t reach the same catharsis as the “Scar Tissue” music video does because it shows the angst of youth all too literally. It does, though, hit some interesting playful, poignant and visceral notes.
Give the music video a listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0oIoR9mLwc
“Dark Necessities” calls for a beer with the same playful and deceptively dark attitude. Enter La Bestia from Ranger Creek Brewing Company brewed in San Antonio, Texas. This beer, a Belgian Dark Strong Ale, offers a complex nose of Belgian yeast and dark fruit, like plums and figs. The flavor takes awhile to fully build, just like the song it is paired with. Eventually, you should get rich notes of caramel, dark malt, honey, and the same fruits and Belgian yeast you smelled upon first meeting this brew. La Bestia, smooth and very agreeable to wine drinkers, is also fairly high in ABV, clocking in at 9.5%. It is a beast indeed.
While the Red Hot Chili Peppers will probably never reach the soaring heights of the their career in the 90s, They’ll forever hold a place in my heart as the band that taught me it’s okay to have a dark streak. For those of you who like to live on the wild side, La Bestia will show you the same devilishly good time.
Cheers. Prost. Salud.