Redd Kross are one of the longest-running bands Los Angeles has spawned in its history, with a career that launched in the city’s late 1970s punk scene (when its brother founders, Jeff and Steve McDonald, were aged 15 and 11, respectively), carried into the power-pop era of the 1980s, then into the alt-rock boom of the ‘90s and straight into the present — the band released a new album just last month.
While Redd Kross never quite broke through — make that haven’t yet broken through — in as big a way as many thought they deserved, the band has a formidable discography, they’ve always put on enormously entertaining live shows, and the brothers are some of the funniest, most gossip-spewing interviewees one could ever hope for. Equally influenced by punk, Kiss, the Partridge Family and pop culture — their first single was called “Linda Blair” — the group reveled in a self-deprecating kitsch and level of humor that flew in the face of nearly every contemporary who took themselves too seriously: As punk became more violent and self-serious during the mid-1980s, Redd Kross grew their hair down to their waists and began wearing the most ludicrous 1970s outfits they could find, specializing in elephant flares, paisley vests and Mary Tyler Moore-style hats.
In short, they’re long overdue for a documentary, and the filmmakers behind “Born Innocent: The Redd Kross Story recently shared a trailer of the documentary that coincides with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to help finish the film.
“There’s a case to be made that Redd Kross is the seminal Los Angeles band of the last 40 years,” the tagline reads. “And ‘BORN INNOCENT’ is gonna make it.
As the trailer indicates, the group has spent much of its career in the unusual position of being an influence and a participant in many of the above music scenes. Their first gig, in 1978, was opening for punk legends Black Flag. Their 1987 “Neurotica” album — felt by many fans to be their best — merged power chords with pop melodies and was a deep influence on the nascent grunge scene and the group’s show in Tacoma that year was attended by the future members of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. The ensuing albums, including “Third Eye,” “Phaseshifter” and “Show World,” found the band developing its harmony-heavy power pop sound even further.
The film is directed by Andrew Reich an Emmy Award-winning television comedy writer/showrunner, best known as an Executive Producer on Friends. He has written and produced television pilots featuring stars such as Zac Efron, Candice Bergen, and Zachary Levi. Born Innocent is produced by Julian Cautherley an Emmy-Award winning filmmaker whose projects have participated at Sundance, Berlin, South By Southwest, and TriBeca Film Festivals and have twice been shortlisted for an Academy Award.
The documentary has already filmed interviews with Jeff and Steve and Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Buzz Osbourne and Dale Crover (The Melvins) and original Red Cross member Greg Hetson (Bad Religion, Circle Jerks), with many more lined up for later.
Redd Kross‘ upcoming album, Beyond the Door, closes with a cover of Sparks’ 1994 single, “When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way,” which they transform from glittering synthpop disco into a triumphant rock anthem. It also comes with the creators’ approval. “Redd Kross has always been one of my favorite bands and that opinion was cemented when I heard their amazing version of our ‘When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way,’” says Sparks’ Ron Mael. “To do a version of that song with a completely different musical approach from the original while keeping every ounce of the original sentiment was an amazing feat. I love it!” The song premieres in this post and you can listen below.
Beyond the Door is out August 23 via Merge and Redd Kross’ tour with Melvins and ShitKid kicks off in September and hits Brooklyn’s Warsaw on October 10 and Asbury Park’s Stone Pony on October 11. Tickets for both are still available.
All dates are listed below.
Speaking of Ron Mael, today (8/12) is his 74th birthday. Happy Birthday, Ron!
Greetings good peoples, and welcome to the latest edition of Classic Rock’s Tracks Of The Week. So much music, so little time but we’ve combed through as much as humanly possible and reckon we’ve got a pretty appetising list to tempt you with. But first let’s look at last week’s top three, in reverse order:
Congratulations to Redd Kross, comeback kings and now TOTW winners! And well played to Novatines and Dinosaur Pile-Up for highly respectable second and third places. You’ve all done marvellously. Now let’s see who emerges victorious from this new stable of noble rock steeds, right after a victory spin of Redd Kross’s champion track. Dig in y’all…
Last year, I spent a whole bunch of time (and money!) buying up back issues of Metal Maniacs: a music magazine that was around, in various formats, from 1989 to 2009, although it’s not around at all anymore. It was never published online, or preserved on microfiche, or collected in book form, or formally archived anywhere. This is a fucking travesty, because Metal Maniacs was a groundbreaking publication, especially over the first six years of its existence, when its founding editor, the late Katherine Ludwig, was running the show. Ludwig’s vision of metal was radically inclusive, expansive, and thoughtful. Read through every issue of Maniacs from 1990 up to ’95 or ’96 and you see an entire galaxy that barely resembles “metal” as it appears today. I mean, you can’t actually do that, of course — not without a lot of effort anyway — but you should. Or, at least, I did. And when I got to the August 1994 issue, I read features on Sepultura, Soundgarden, Black Sabbath, Entombed, and Redd Kross. The writer of that Redd Kross piece was Marina Zogbi, and it opened with this:
There aren’t too many bonafide rock legends around these days that are still young and cool enough to matter. And certainly none that have recently released the best album of their lives. If you have even a passing interest in how the youngest (genuine) punk band in the US grew up into great, non-conforming musicians, beating odds and banging heads along the way, here’s the Redd Kross story. (If you don’t, you’ll probably write us whining that this space should have been devoted to Deicide. Yeah, yeah, yeah.)
That was 25 years ago. TWENTY FIVE. In 1994, Redd Kross were “bonafide rock legends.” They were! The band was formed in 1978 by brothers Jeff and Steven McDonald, who were then 13 and 9, respectively. Here’s a line from their current bio:
Jeff and Steven started making music together in Southern California as Red Cross during the first wave of Los Angeles punk rock, famously cutting their teeth opening for Black Flag at a middle school graduation party.
This is one tiny piece of the Redd Kross story. Ancillary to that is the anecdote behind the origin of the name “Red Cross” — as well as the anecdote behind why “Red Cross” was changed to “Redd Kross.” That’s a whole story right there! The Redd Kross story is SO MUCH huger than that, though.
For instance, there are the early years, when the McDonald brothers were arty punk-rock teenagers who released two EPs (Red Cross in 1980 and Teen Babes In Monsanto in 1984) and two LPs (Born Innocent in 1982 and Neurotica in 1987). Each of those releases is loaded with wild, unbelievable factoids, coincidences, and references, any one of which could fill an entire blog post. Not THIS blog post though. Moving on…
Next, you’ve got Redd Kross’ major-label debut, 1990’s Third Eye, which aesthetically positioned the band somewhere between ostensible pre-grunge oddball contemporaries Enuff Z’nuff and Jellyfish, but it sounded like pure Cheap Trick worship with Beatles harmonies and hooks. Couple fun facts about that album: (1) There is a song on Third Eye called “Shonen Knife” — a tribute to the Japanese band Shonen Knife. The following year, the Seattle band Nirvana took the Japanese band Shonen Knife on a tour of the UK, prior to the release of the former group’s own major-label debut, Nevermind. (2) On the cover of Third Eye, there is a photograph in which sits a naked woman wearing a creepy-ass plastic mask. That woman was later revealed to be Sofia Coppola, who must have been 19 years old at the time. I could keep going! But I can’t. We gotta move on!
Moving on: In 1993 — when “alternative rock” was a goldmine — Redd Kross released Phaseshifter. That was the one Metal Maniacs described as “the best album of their lives.” Real quick here: Phaseshifter is fucking awesome. So too is the album that followed it, 1997’s Show World. These are stone classics, front to back. Naturally, NEITHER ONE is available on Spotify, which is a truly horrifying indictment of Spotify and a glaring example of the insane voids that exist within music-streaming services. What is the point of a “universal library” that doesn’t have fucking “Jimmy’s Fantasy”? Why do we bother with music at all? No time for that now, just sayin’.
Then? After Show World? Redd Kross broke up.
Then? Fast forward 15 years: Redd Kross released their first new album since Show World: 2012’s Researching The Blues. That was SEVEN YEARS ago. Crazy!
Then? Fast forward to right now: Redd Kross have dropped the first single/title track from their seventh LP — their seventh LP since forming in 1978! — Beyond The Door. Here’s another line from the current bio:
On the surface, the album title is a playful reference to an Italian horror film the McDonald brothers watched as children, a loose rip-off of both The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby that stars Juliet Mills of ’70s television program Nanny And The Professor. But like all things Redd Kross, it would be a sad injustice to stop digging there. No one knows what lies Beyond The Door … but we’re all in front of it.
And here we are, at the proverbial door! If you know Redd Kross, you know what this sounds like: pure Cheap Trick worship with Beatles harmonies and hooks. That doesn’t change, because that is timeless music, and timeless is the music at which Redd Kross excel. It’s right here. Let’s go:
The deets of the album’s release are as follows: Beyond The Door is out 8/23 via Merge. Pre-order it here. They’re touring with the motherfucking Melvins, too, and I’ve got those dates for ya below. But before we get to that, I gotta share some other stuff that applies to this post and probably won’t pop up elsewhere without some digging on your part.
First, Phaseshifter single “Jimmy’s Fantasy”: a perfect song.
Second, Show World single “Mess Around”: a perfect song.
Third, BECAUSE I CARE: scans of Marina Zogbi’s Redd Kross feature for Metal Maniacs from ’94, which is way more in-depth than what I could manage in a blog post:
Last and probably most important of all, yr tour dates: Redd Kross x Melvins:
09/03 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
09/04 – Santa Ana, CA @ Observatory
09/05 – Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour
09/07 – Sacramento, CA @ Holy Diver
09/08 – Berkeley, CA @ Cornerstone
09/10 – Eugene, OR @ Wow Hall
09/11 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
09/13 – Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s
09/14 – Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s
09/15 – Spokane, WA @ The Big Dipper
09/16 – Missoula, MT @ Top Hat Lounge
09/17 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
09/19 – Ft. Collins, CO @ Aggie Theatre
09/20 – Englewood, CO @ Gothic Theatre
09/22 – Kansas City, MO @ The Record Bar
09/23 – Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room
09/24 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
09/25 – Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
09/26 – Chicago, IL @ Metro
09/27 – St. Louis, MO @ The Ready Room
09/28 – Louisville, KY @ Louder Than Life Festival
09/30 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue
10/01 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Pyramid Scheme
10/02 – Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
10/03 – Detroit, MI @ El Club
10/04 – Columbus, OH @ A&R Music Bar
10/05 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Red Theatre
10/07 – Syracuse, NY @ Wescott Theatre
10/08 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
10/09 – Hamden, CT @ Space Ballroom
10/10 – Brooklyn, NY @ Warsaw
10/11 – Asbury Park, NJ @ Stone Pony
10/12 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
10/13 – Baltimore, MD @ Otto Bar
10/15 – Richmond, VA @ The Broadberry
10/16 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
10/17 – Charlotte, NC @ Visulite Theatre
10/18 – Athens, GA @ 40 Watt Club
10/19 – Birmingham, AL @ Saturn
10/21 – Orlando, FL @ The Social
10/22 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Culture Rom
10/23 – Tampa, FL @ The Orpheum
10/25 – Pensacola, FL @ Vinyl Music Hall
10/26 – New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
10/27 – Baton Rouge, LA @ Spanish Moon
10/28 – Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live Studio
10/29 – San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
10/30 – Austin, TX @ Mohawk
10/31 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
11/03 – Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
11/04 – Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
11/05 – Las Vegas, NV @ The Bunkhouse Saloon
In The Red is over the moon to announce the release of this new split single by REDD KROSS and The SIDE EYES. REDD KROSS should need no introduction so we’ll just say that they are the finest purveyors of punk-glam-pop-metal in the world and one of the best band’s to come out of Los Angeles ever. Fronted by brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald, the band started out in the late 70’s LA punk scene when they were 12 and 15 years old! They’ve continued to record the entire time releasing one amazing record after another.
The Side Eyes are a brand new Los Angeles punk band fronted by Astrid McDonald, daughter of Jeff from Redd Kross and Charlotte Caffey (Go-Go’s). The Side Eyes are a ferocious young punk band whose sound recalls early punk bands like The Bags and Avengers and they play with a heaviness that would make Mudhoney or Fuzz proud. Their live shows are frantic, aggressive and incredible.
One this single both bands have recorded renditions of songs written by Charlotte “Chargo” Caffey back in her early punk rock days. The Side Eyes do “Don’t Talk To Me” originally recorded by Charlotte’s band The Eyes. Redd Kross tackle “Screaming” a very early Go-Go’s song. Both are incredible! You need this!