Researching the Blues
By Bob LangeAugust 08, 2012
In 1987, Redd Kross released Neurotica, an album whose punk fueled take on the late 60s and early 70s was a just a few years too early to be huge. It was by far their broadest and most complete album. Subsequent line-up changes saw the McDonald brothers continue on without Robert Hecker and Roy McDonald (the other McDonald) for several mixed bags of songs before going on extended hiatus. Fifteen years after the last Redd Kross release (and 25 years after their best work), the band is back with the lineup that produced perhaps the greatest ode to the childlike naivete of psychedelia and glam ever made. For Redd Kross fans, that wait might just pay off.
Two possible expectations are largely dispelled. First, Researching the Blues, oddly enough, is not a particularly bluesy album. For existing fans, that might not be a huge surprise, but anyone expecting the blues here to refer to the the genre will find themselves quite mistaken. Second, the reunion of the Neurotica lineup did not simply produce a follow up to that album. Of the two, the latter is by far the most compelling. The album, largely penned by Jeff McDonald before the reunion happened, seems more of a retrospective of all that has gone into Redd Kross over the years. From the riffy punk blasts of the title track to hippie dippy bubblegum pop of "Dracula's Daughter," Researching the Blues finds all the hooks with a healthy dose of pop culture zaniness and perhaps just enough hints that some of it is serious to tap into what made their best work such a great listen. Whether they're tapping Cheap Trick, the Velvet Underground or the Beatles, their riffs have an edge that isn't fueled by testosterone and hooks have a charm that isn't simply sweet.
So, in the end, Researching the Blues is not, for better or worse, Neurotica, but in the most important ways, it is very connected to the spirit of what made its predecessor great even if it never quite digs deeper than the veneer of a generation raised on sugary cereal and Saturday morning cartoons. It moves around its many 60s and 70s influences in a way that is peculiar and wonderful and thoroughly Redd Kross.