STEREO GUM premiere: Redd Kross – “Beyond The Door”
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