Power-pop punks Redd Kross are back in action with a new album, Researching the Blues, out now on Merge Records. Much like one of those great reunions with a long lost friend, it defies time and continues right where it left off.
The four members include Jeff McDonald on vocals/guitars, Steven McDonald on bass/vocals, Roy McDonald on drums and Robert Hecker on guitars. Brothers Jeff and Steven McDonald got their start 34 years ago during the first wave of punk in Los Angeles. It’s been 15 years since the last album, but Jeff McDonald has continued to refine his craft.
“For some reason I never stopped writing songs and the one thing I had yet to do is write the perfect pop song. I’m not sure that I ever will, but it’s something I can’t let go of just yet,” says MacDonald.
There seems to be a timelessness about the songs, especially the current ones.
“I really never think about what’s going on musically so I just try to please myself. I think we’ve always known if we dig it, there will be others like us. That’s what you learn when you’ve been around so long,” he says.
At first glance the album title points at historical context.
“It’s both absurd and heavy and it just came to me one day. I was reading a lot of books on the history of American music at the time I wrote the song, so people really do research the blues. I guess I was.” says Jeff. “It can also be about doing the same things that constantly make you miserable and not being able to stop, who knows?”
However, the oddity here is the source of the line, not only is it the title of opening number but the actual line “researching the blues” came from an old song called “Fiona Apple” that Jeff and Steven wrote with Ze Malibu Kids. A project recorded with family: Steve, Anna, Charlotte and Astrid. With so much fragmentation and sub-genres, is it just a good time to just some fun with rock ‘n’ roll?
“I never really pay too much attention to what’s happening,” says McDonald. “Rock ‘n’ roll can be very deceptive in the sense when you’re dealing with something so simple, it must be pure and if it’s not authentic on some level it will fail. It seems it’s much more of a challenge to make a really great rock record that one can listen to from start to finish than it is to make art noise or something beat orientated. Very few great rock albums come out each year and even then most are still a bit spotty. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Frank Sinatra, I love noise and heavy grooves. Right now I only listen to Korean girl groups, so what do I know?”
Collecting vinyl is on a fabulous return and there’s something about those seven-inch 45s.
“I originally wanted to do five double A-sides because most of the songs were written in that single style. I could hear any two songs paired together to make a strong seven inch,” says McDonald. The album, ten songs, Researching the Blues is now available in most formats. Looks like Vancouver will get to experience these live and it also seems very likely that you’ll have a lot of people dancing in the front row.
“The last time we played Vancouver the L.A. riots were going down and I think most of the audience was on ecstasy. You never forget a show like that,” he says. “I promise there will be something for everybody. Vancouver is a special place. Can’t wait!”
Redd Kross plays the Rickshaw Theatre September 6.
By tiina liimu
Photos: Jonathan Krop