VARIETY MAGAZINE: “Redd Kross’ ‘Neurotica,’ a Lost ’80s Power-Pop Classic, Finally Gets Its Due: Album Review”

Absence can make the heart grow fonder, and one of the ironies of the power-pop revival of the mid-1980s was how hard it was to find records by some of its main archetypes, even if those earlier groups had genuine hits: The brace of great early-‘70s albums and singles by Beatles-obsessed bands like Badfinger, Big Star and the Raspberries had been out of print for years and could only be found at specialty shops for exorbitant prices or as random junkshop jackpots.

Even more ironically, one of the greatest albums of that ‘80s wave — Redd Kross’ “Neurotica” — suffered the same fate. It was released in 1987 on the short-lived U.S. division of a small Australian label called Big Time that had a cool roster (Love and Rockets, Alex Chilton, Hoodoo Gurus, Dream Syndicate) but did not fare well in the brawny U.S. market, a circumstance that was not aided by the original album’s muddled production: Redd Kross’ effervescent harmonies and sharp hooks were buried in a thuddy mix with a horrifically dated ‘80s drum sound. (Not to speak ill of the album’s producer, late founding Ramones drummer Tom Erdelyi, but he did a similar number on the Replacement’s 1985 should-have-been breakthrough “Tim.”)

But this week, thanks to Merge Records and a crisp, drastically improved remastering job, 35 years later, “Neurotica” finally sounds the way it always should have.

Though only in their early 20s at the time of the album’s release, Redd Kross took a long time to get to “Neurotica.” Formed in 1979 as a punk rock band by Jeff and Steve McDonald (who were 15 and 11 at the time), the group poked relentless fun at pop culture in a half-worshipping/ half-mocking manner that wouldn’t become mainstream until the grunge era several years later — and for a pair of literally adolescent punks raised in 1970s Los Angeles, there was no shortage of pop culture to mock. Early songs contained references to “Exorcist” star Linda Blair, Annette Funicello, “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” and included a cover of Charles Manson’s “Cease to Exist.” Within a few years they’d finished high school, grew their hair and began sporting bell bottoms, fringe vests and paisley. After a 1984 EP featuring covers of relatively obscure songs by David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, the Shangri-Las and even themselves, the group recorded “Neurotica.”

To say they doubled down on the references is a major understatement: Recorded during the peak of the Hollywood hair-metal scene, the album’s lyrics mention everything from hippies to ‘70s TV shows like “The Partridge Family” and “One Day at a Time” to “metal sluts” and “the assholes at the Rainbow” — many of which are obscure now (anyone who gets the “chartreuse microbus” reference is… old). But the music is a combination of ‘60s-inflected power pop, punk, psychedelia, metal guitar solos and Steve’s zooming, McCartneyesque bass, which is basically the band’s lead instrument. You can’t tell if they’re loving or making fun of it all, and of course they’re doing both.

That sound is a vibrant confluence of the scenes that Redd Kross intersected with: The Black Flag-centered punk cohort the brothers grew up in, the “Paisley Underground” of ‘80s psychedelia, the ‘60s-style pop of the Bangles and the Go-Go’s (Jeff and Go-Go’s guitarist Charlotte Caffey have been married for decades), and the hard-riffing metal bands they made fun of on the Strip. While not all of the songs are great, about half of them are: The raucous title track with its tongue in cheek “whoo!”s, the snarling “Ghandi Is Dead,” the poppy “Play My Song,” and the lilting “Ballad of a Love Doll,” which squeezes two verses and the album’s best chorus — complete with a key change at the end — into less than two minutes.  Surprisingly, the song that Erdelyi got most right is the girl-group homage, their cover of Sonny & Cher’s early single “It’s the Little Things,” where the instruments are mashed together in a Spectoresque rush. (This reissue appends a dozen demos, including two unreleased songs.)

The entirety of the Redd Kross experience was hard to get across on an album, but in concert the group was among the funniest and most entertaining of the era, with different running jokes and covers each time they came around: On one tour it was the Beatles, on another it was Kiss, on the next it was “Jesus Christ Superstar,” when they’d open with the 1970 rock opera’s overture and later in the set play “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” which Jeff opened the most hilariously offensive thing this writer has ever heard a bandmember say onstage: “I’d like to dedicate this song to my boyfriend, Jesus Christ.”

Redd Kross would stay in this lane for the next few years, despite more lineup and label changes, before finally stabilizing with 1993’s alternative hit “Phaseshifter.” They split for a while but reunited in the ‘00s and released their most recent album “Beyond the Door,” in 2019. But the 2002 project Ze Malibu Kids, which saw the brothers collaborating with Steve’s wife (That Dog singer Anna Waronker) and Jeff and Charlotte’s 6-year-old daughter Astrid, may have been their ultimate accomplishment: becoming a real-life Partridge Family.

Click here for original article.

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KQED News on “Songs That Chargo Taught Us”

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 4.03.10 AMThe Side Eyes/Redd Kross, ‘Songs that Chargo Taught Us’ split single

Remember the good ol’ days when rock and punk were about rejecting your parents’ ways, ideally really ticking them off in the process? Well, kids today …

Take 21-year-old Astrid McDonald, singer in the L.A. punkish band the Side Eyes. Not only isn’t she railing against her mom, but on the band’s new vinyl-only single she sings a song written by her mom. Well, her mom happens to be Charlotte Caffey of the Go-Go’s. And the song the Side Eyes does here, “Don’t Talk to Me,” dates from when mom was around the age her daughter is now, back in the late ’70s when Caffey fronted a pre-Go-Go’s trio with drummer D.J. Bonebrake (soon of X) and guitarist Joe Ramirez (Black Randy & the Metro Squad). The name of that band? The Eyes. Yeah, even young McDonald’s band’s name pays homage to mater.

What’s more, the other side of the single is by the veteran L.A. power-punk band Redd Kross, which as you may have already realized features McDonald’s dad, Jeff McDonald, as well as her uncle, Steven. And what’s more more, the song they do is also an old Caffey composition, “Screaming,” a rare one from the very earliest days of the Go-Go’s, notable for the stinging guitar and brusque energy that came to mark Caffey’s famous band’s best work.

Together the songs are presented as “Songs that Chargo Taught Us,” “Chargo” being Caffey’s nickname. Both are sharp, spirited performances, given more meaning for being a deeply loving appreciation to McDonald’s mom and spouse, respectively. It’s wonderful. But seriously, is this any way to have youthful rebellion?




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From KEXP: Live at Bumbershoot 2013, Day 3: Redd Kross


text by Gerrit Feenstra and Jake Uitti

Today, we welcome punk legends Redd Kross to the Music Lounge. Jeff and Steve McDonald have been around the block and back, both as Redd Kross and as the Tourists, staying alive through three decades of changes to the scene and still bringing a visceral show to the stage. Last year, they dropped their first record in fifteen years, Researching The Blues, through Merge Records, and they’ve most recently toured alongside Dinosaur Jr.

After growing and performing alongside other punk heroes like Black Flag and Circle Jerks through the 80s and surviving through most of the 90s, Redd Kross took a hiatus towards the end of the decade. In 1999, the death of guitarist Eddie Kurdziel put the future of the band further into limbo. But in 2006, the band slowly returned to the stage, building steam through a string of California dates and then moving out across the country once again. With a batch of new songs fresh out the door, it’s the perfect time to see the McDonalds once again and remember the raw power that this band can pack.

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As Redd Kross set up for the show, complete with a beat up red guitar, their songs booming and bright, it was clear the KEXP music lounge was ready to fill with sound. Heck, we’d be lucky if the doors stayed on their hinges. ”I’m super pleased to kick things off with a bang,” said the stylish KEXP DJ Kevin Cole, donning a sharp black vest. “Please welcome Redd Kross!”

“Alllright!” shouted bassist Steven McDonald, in black t-shirt, hand through long brown hair. “Are you ready to do this!” The crowd cheered and just like that the set began.

Click here for the full recap and photos.


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Redd Kross Boogies Down at Burger Boogaloo.

Redd Kross @ Burger Boogaloo Oakland, CA July 6, 2013. Photo © 2013 Jon Krop

Redd Kross @ Burger Boogaloo Oakland, CA July 6, 2013. Photo © 2013 Jon Krop

Redd Kross @ Burger Boogaloo Oakland, CA July 6, 2013. Photo © 2013 Jon Krop

Redd Kross are joined by Ty Segall @ Burger Boogaloo Oakland, CA July 6, 2013. Photo © 2013 Jon Krop


SF Weekly’s “Sizzle & Fizzle: Highs and Lows From the Last Week in S.F. Music” :

Burger Boogaloo drew the nostalgia-rock faithful to a battered venue in Oakland’s Mosswood Park, where true old-timers like Jonathan Richman and Redd Kross proved most captivating of the weekend lineup. We dug the throwback vibes of Shannon and the Clams and Fuzz, too.

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