Fifteen long years in the making and Redd Kross (the Neurotica line-up) are back with a new album! Well worth the wait, as the band has significantly upped the ante since 1997’s Show World, with their 2012 Merge Records release, Researching the Blues – a brief but simply striking 32 minutes of pure, hard power-pop perfection.
The band’s 34-year history stems from L.A. punk rock roots, which garnered them openers for Black Flag and an instant fan with KROQ legend, Rodney Bingenheimer. More importantly their background seems to have contributed to their raw, high energy and just rough-enough edge that currently balances out these ten standout rock songs. The title track boasts immediate, slap-in-the-face guitar and drums — fused with coherent vocal snarling that ignites short, fiery choruses. The wailing wah-wah guitar offers a quick glimpse into the badass rock and roll that they successfully deliver. Redd Kross fever will strike and one can expect the following symptoms: twitching legs, stomping feet, banging heads.
“Stay Away From Downtown” follows a serious lyrical path (“It feels so great at first, to be so all alone, but each time it gets worse, when your soul has left its home, the devil inside your head, is so far from dead, let go of you this time, let’s not push your luck”) but delicately masks that with a showcase of, perhaps, the catchiest power pop hooks and harmonies of the entire album. There are real cajones behind those harmonies, the sha la la las are unshakeable, and layers of the punk rock shouts, “You better stay away from downtown! Yeah you!” make it irresistible and memorable. This might be as close to anthemic as a power pop song can get.
A double pairing of swampy, punk blues chords and squealing riffs — worthy of air guitar play, ride swelling bass lines, pushing “Uglier” to the upper echelon of Redd Kross hits, while “Dracula’s Daughter” slips into a sleepwalk ballad of dream-lite psychedelia meets 60s girl group beats. The album rounds out nicely with “Hazel Eyes”, a song fueled by galloping percussion, the bold bass solo I’d been waiting for and oddly fitting, funky sound effects, all accenting a solid pop-psych groove. Founding members and brothers Jeff McDonald and Steven McDonald are at the core of the spot on songwriting and crisp production which really shines on this album.
Redd Kross don’t miss a beat. Listening to Researching the Blues for me, proved to be an extremely satisfying experience — overall a simply good, kick ass time and exactly what I expect from rock and roll. As bassist/vocalist Steven McDonald so superbly describes it, “It’s just 10 really fucking awesome songs that have the ability to move you in many different ways.” I couldn’t agree with you more, Steven.
Album Review by Emily Saex
Peep the video for Redd Kross’ “Stay Away From Downtown” here!