Redd Kross' "Researching The Blues"
- Article by: Sean Maloney
- Posted: 08/01/2012
It was a classic Nashville party – everybody was there, back when everybody was still nobody. I was with my band, trying to convince our drummer to pee in the vents, loudly and pointedly mocking the Kings of Leon who, at this point, were just kids with funny hair, dangerously close to getting dropped from their label. Members of JEFF the Brotherhood and Turbo Fruits were playing in the band downstairs. There's a possibility that Ke$ha was there, members of Lambchop definitely were, and there were surely even more semi-notables there, but who can remember those sorts of things through that Bush-era booze cloud? All that really matters it that Redd Kross's Steven McDonald was there and he told everyone that Redd Kross were writing a new record.
Best. News. Ever.
Now, granted, that was almost seven years ago – pretty much the halfway point in the Kross' fifteen year hiatus – so when I got an email with the final product this spring, the end result of a decade-and-a-half off the radar, I nearly flipped. The LA quartet were never the most popular band in the world; their penchant for being ahead of all curves was always a hindrance to mainstream acceptance – but my local modern rock radio station loved them and I did too. Songs like “Annie's Gone” and “Lady in the Front Row” were always too goofy, too clever and too refined to be lumped in with grunge, too off the wall for pop. Albums like their 1982 debut Born Innocent – one of the finest LPs of LA's hardcore era – and 1988's Neurotica were pop-culture pastiche, epic odes to fandom long before the internet made fandom every American's god-given right. They were simply one of the best bands of the late 20th century.
Which makes their return, the Merge Records-released Researching The Blues, even more astounding. Redd Kross have – and I say this as a lifelong, unreasonably obsessed fan – never been as on-point as they are on this record. Somehow they've managed to boil down the Essence of Kross, combining their penchant for power-pop hooks and ‘60s psyche-pop with the fury of punk rock and the big-room sounds of ‘70s stadium rock. Be it album closer “Hazel Eyes” with its acoustic guitars and backwards tape noises, the pulsing back beat of “The Nu Temptations,” or the scary-good guitar riffs on “Meet Frankenstein,” the Kross have the energy and excitement of a band half their age but with twice the skill and understanding to create one of the best rock records of the year.