"18 tracks bristling with ideas and imagination": Redd Kross come full circle on melody-stuffed eighth album

The first album in five years from LA power-pop titans Redd Kross

Redd Kross: Redd Kross cover art
(Image: © In The Red)

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It’s been 45 years since Jeff and Steve McDonald – then aged 15 and 11 respectively – decided to throw their floppy hat into the rock’n’roll ring. However, despite influencing countless bands along the way – from Nirvana to the Lemon TwigsRedd Kross's back catalogue is frustratingly sporadic, the power-pop brilliance of late-80s/early-90s albums Neurotica, Third Eye and Phaseshifter submerged in the grunge tsunami. 

While the intervening years have been filled with all manner of intriguing side projects, the sense that the mainstream was missing out on the brothers’ melodic genius became clear with 2019’s Beyond The Door.

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Their self-titled ninth studio album finds them, if anything, in even finer fettle. ‘No more distractions, I hear this message coming through,’ Jeff sings in a soaring The Main Attraction, and, as with most eponymous albums, there’s a sense of Redd Kross taking stock here, distilling their disparate influences into 18 tracks bristling with ideas and imagination. The duo’s enthusiasm is clearly shared by Keith Moon-like drummer and producer Josh Klinghoffer, whose kinetic connection with Steve began when they were both in touring bands for Beck and Sparks. 

So we get crunchy glam riffing (Candy Coloured Catastrophe), gnarly garage rock (Stunt Queen) and edgy new wave (Lay Down And Die) all laced with some deadly, score-settling lyrics. Terrible Band finds McDonald snarling: ‘Terrible man in a terrible band!’, while I’ll Take Your Word For It is a spiky adieu to an old rival (‘Every time you’re round, I end up on the ground’), culminating with him yelling: ‘I don’t need this shit!’ A discordant Way Too Happy, meanwhile, feels like an infuriated dig at the trope of artists gaining more critical respect the less tuneful they are, while Emanuelle Insane is a bad-tempered kiss-off to a fame-hungry fan (‘She dumped the leader of Kiss, because he was not fine’).

There’s a break in the clouds for a Beatles-esque Good Times Propaganda Band, in which McDonald proclaims: ‘It’s a rare, rather luxury show, for the few who are in the know’, while a frenzied Simple Magic is a meta celebration of pop structure in which he declares: ‘We can live in harmony.’ A final Born Innocent, meanwhile (also the title of the band documentary released this year) finds them reminiscing about their days in a school band. 

It’s taken almost half a century, but Redd Kross have finally come full circle.

Paul Moody is a writer whose work has appeared in the Classic Rock, NME, Time Out, Uncut, Arena and the Guardian. He is the co-author of The Search for the Perfect Pub and The Rough Pub Guide.