Friday, July 20, 2018

Redd Kross' Third Eye--Special Record Day 2018 Pressing

I'll go ahead and say it--Redd Kross is the most underrated power pop band of the '90s, and possibly beyond. I've liked them since the moment I watched The Spirit of '76, a 1990 comedy that was one of the first film parodies of the goofy trends of the '70s. It featured brothers Jeff (guitars, vocals) and Steve (bass, vocals) McDonald as two dim-witted teens who help David Cassidy and Olivia D'Abo repair their time machine and return to the year 2176--the time-travelers originally set the course for 1776 but wound up, obviously, in 1976. The brothers McDonald were part of the the Southern California punk scene, once even opening for Black Flag, and by the 1980s they had changed the name of the band from The Tourists to Redd Kross (a naughty reference to a famous scene in The Exorcist) and started playing their trademark brand of power pop that was heavy on pop culture and sheer fun.

My appreciation of the band was also boosted by my younger brother, who still adores them to this day. He turned me onto the original albums as well as some of their interesting side projects over the years. One of them, Ze Malibu Kids, featured Steve and his wife Charlotte Caffey--yes, that Charlotte Caffey from The Go-Gos. The band also featured their daughter Astrid, who was only 10 when she joined as the drummer. Perhaps the most gleeful side project of all came from Steve when he added bass guitar to all of the tracks from the White Stripes' White Blood Cells and called it Red Blood Cells. Jack White is said to have loved it, and gave his endorsement. I have it on my music server and it is fascinating--although I might still prefer the original. You can check out the tracks on YouTube.

Third Eye was their third album, originally released in 1990 as their major label debut with Atlantic, and it finally provided the band with some success due to the hit single "Annie's Gone." It also features long-time Redd Kross bandmate Robert Hecker on guitar, and Victor Indrizzo on drums. Jack Irons, one-time drummer for Red Hot Chili Peppers, toured with Redd Kross for the Third Eye tour. And that naked masked girl on the cover? That's Sofia Coppola.

They have a great pedigree, obviously, but to this day I meet very few people who know Redd Kross. When I do meet someone, they're always a huge fan. Maybe they were a SoCal sort of band, or maybe their overall sound is a little too bubble-gum to be taken seriously by some people. That's sort of missing the point. Despite the fact that they alienated some fans when they switched from punk to this guitar-driven pop music, there's a bit of irony in the delivery. The brothers and Hecker, who does an amazing impersonation of Paul Stanley on "1976," offer a believable and enthusiastic take on this style of rock, and they're also serious musicians. You want great hooks, furious drumming and kick-ass guitar solos? You got them right here. It's amazing how good this album still sounds 28 years later.

A lot of that can be traced to this new pressing, which was released for Record Story Day earlier this year. Well, sort of, since the release was delayed and didn't make it into stores on time, which is why I have it now. It comes in green vinyl and includes a new insert with the lyrics. It was remastered on vinyl by Infrasonic Mastering in Los Angeles, and it sounds unusually clean and the pressing is first-rate. Part of the thrill of having this album available is because it was out of print for many years. Maybe that's why they've faded from memory, despite releasing the well-received album Researching the Blues in 2012. Honestly, Redd Kross is the kind of group that deserves a major comeback in 2018, and maybe this exciting reissue will accomplish that.

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