Amoeba Review

Merge Records is thrilled to reissue Neurotica by Redd Kross, the 1987 power pop and alternative rock opus celebrating 35 years in 2022. Available worldwide on CD or special 2-LP color vinyl, the original album is remastered by JJ Golden (Pearl Jam, Thee Oh Sees) and then paired with 12 unreleased demos rediscovered in the archive of original A&R guy Geoffrey Weiss. The double vinyl edition—the album on translucent turquoise, the demos on translucent orange—arrives in a slick gatefold jacket.

Neurotica could be viewed as a This Is Your Life-esque document of what brothers Jeff & Steve McDonald had been working toward creatively since starting Redd Kross in their Hawthorne, CA living room circa 1978. The songs quake with punk rock fury. And how could they possibly have shaken off the untamed energy of their early Red Cross years which laid a foundation for Southern California hardcore punk & DIY culture alongside bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks and Descendants? But fury is only part of their formula. To find the other parts, travel back to the ‘70s, when the McDonald boys lived for nothing but Saturday morning cartoons, sugary cereal, bubblegum pop singles, Beach Boys LPs, Partridge Family TV specials and the arena rock guitars of KISS & Cheap Trick. Whereas most self-respecting punk rockers would have sneered at ‘60s/‘70s radio and pop culture schmaltz (even if they secretly liked it), that was all a tremendous part of the Redd Kross DNA. And the McDonalds wore those influences on their dayglo sleeves. They decontextualized the macho, sometimes saccharine, sound of classic rock, celebrating its bombast without falling into its pretentious pitfalls. They played what sounded good to them. If along the way they could convince you that those David Cassidy AM radio singles were actually great & subversive in their own way, that was just an added bonus.


Their unabashed appreciation of the “uncool” made Neurotica shine brightly in the 1980s. Sub Pop cofounder Jonathan Poneman told Entertainment Weekly in 1993: “Neurotica was a life changer for me and for a lot of people in Seattle. To embrace something so unapologetically crass and packaged–there was something really punk about doing that then.” Their undeniable earworms, along with raucous live shows, set a precedent for a generation of young punks: that crafting something melodic, silly, hooky, even happy is OK. You can write a chorus that your own mother could hum along to & still be considered the baddest band on the fucking planet.


Their technicolor punk rock was first explored on Teen Babes From Monsanto in 1984. But Neurotica is where the Redd Kross sound gelled into something miraculous. The McDonalds enlisted a grand crew: guitarist Robert Hecker, keyboardist Paul Roessler (Screamers, Nervous Gender) and Roy McDonald on drums (The Muffs). In the producer’s chair was Tom Erdelyi aka Tommy Ramone, one of the originators of punk rock melody. Unshakeable hooks on tracks like “Peach Kelli Pop” inspired rave reviews upon release. “In an age when too many bands base their music either on calculated career moves or heavy-handed pretentions,” the LA Times wrote, “Redd Kross is as breezy as a kiss in the wind, a band born to rock in a world that forgot how.” Decades later, Pitchfork would revisit the album with a glowing review: “Pop culture nostalgia was to Redd Kross what LSD was to the Butthole Surfers; their music was delivered with just as furious a passion, but their love for Beatles-esque pop harmony shone through as much as any punk sensibility, and their Kinks influences, entirely free of irony, served as lyrical substance over their powerful, hi-octane hooks.” Plain and simple, it’s just a fantastic piece of art. Unsurprising that something of this caliber would hatch from the minds of two brothers who changed the face of punk rock before they were old enough to drive a car & the face of alternative rock before they were old enough to rent one


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