Released in 1982, Redd Kross' debut record, Born Innocent, was to mall-punk what homo erectus was to modern man. Founded in the suburbs outside of Los Angeles, the band, led by teenage brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald, wrote scrappy and bratty three-chord pop songs that betrayed a fascination with B-movie kitsch via references to Charles Manson, The Exorcist actress Linda Blair, and sugar-infused breakfast cereals. According to legend, they even opened for Black Flag at a middle school graduation party.
But eventually, Redd Kross accrued some polish. By the early 90s, the band had evolved into a heavy but hooky power-pop outfit. After a few years spent wandering the globe supporting less-worthy, yet more successful, alternative era bands-- Spin Doctors and Stone Temple Pilots, among them-- Redd Kross decided to hang it up for a while, easing into an indefinite hiatus following the release of their 1997 album, Show World.
And now, they're back. Researching the Blues, the group's latest record, was written and recorded around 2007 after the band was coaxed out of retirement for a handful of festival dates, and is just now seeing release via Merge. The McDonald brothers pick up pretty much where they left off, smudging vintage Cheap Trick riffs with liberal amounts of overdrive and balancing lovelorn lyrics with imagery swiped from the "cult" aisle of your local video store. But in a lot of ways, they're better at it now. Produced by Steve, the younger brother, lately of OG hardcore revivalist outfit Off!, Researching the Blues is a leaner and more focused records than its two predecessors. With the murky production artifacts of the 90s stripped away-- the heavy reverb, the walls of fuzz, the chorus pedal-laden solos-- Redd Kross sound tighter and more energetic, even though their guitar tones have mellowed a little.