Redd Kross has been a part of my life for literally as long as I can remember- born in 1990 to extremely hip parents, my dad was a Redd Kross fan even before my time. My parents saw the band play with The Go-Go’s in Oakland a few months after my birth, and throughout my entire childhood the promotional poster for the Neurotica album was up on our living room wall and Redd Kross tunes were constantly on the stereo. In high school, my brothers and I covered “Annies Gone” in our band, though we were never quite as cool as brothers Jeff and Steven Mcdonald.
Jeff and Steven Mcdonald formed Redd Kross in 1980. Though the band was part of the same So-Cal punk scene that produced bands like Black Flag and The Circle Jerks, Redd Kross was something entirely different. As they put it, “Redd Kross have devoted their career to making subversive entertainment in a high pop celebrity style, reintroducing in their especially golden late ’80s/early-’90s period such forbidden classic-rock tropes as melodies, harmonies, ripping musicianship, and primary colors-stuff that had (largely) been ditched in the underground rock’s post-punk, No Wave, hardcore, and sensitive-egghead scenes”. As the band’s 40th anniversary approaches, Redd Kross are set to release their first album since 2012’s Researching The Blues, and the 7th full length release of their career. Beyond The Door is out Aug 23rd on Merge Records, and may be one of the band’s best.
According to the band, Beyond the Door is an album inspired by the band’s “total commitment to having the best f*cking time we can have while we’re all still here” (what they like to call “the Party”). The album’s title is a reference to the 1974 Italian horror movie of the same name, which Roger Ebert described as “maddeningly inappropriate in the face of its horrors…It’s all trash, but it’s scary trash. I wouldn’t call it entertainment, but it’s a diversion, all right.”.
Beyond the Door also marks Redd Kross’ most collaborative record to date. Steven describes this evolution: “Jeff is still very much the driving force behind the compositions, but with more help from me than ever. Jeff and I haven’t shared this much of the writing and singing since Born Innocent in 1981.” Guitarist Jason Shapiro and drummer Dale Crover (Melvins, OFF!) are longtime members of the Redd Kross live band, but this album marks the pair’s recorded debut with the group. Mixed in Los Angeles by Steven McDonald, Beyond the Door includes notable guest appearances from Anna Waronker (That Dog), Geré Fennelly, Buzz Osborne (Melvins), and Josh Klinghoffer.
The album opens with “The Party” and “Fighting”, both of which are just maximum Redd Kross rock n roll right upside your head. “The Party” has a cool groove with plenty of guitar hooks and vocal melodies, while “Fighting” is pounding rhythms and blistering guitar solos that rips from start to finish. The album’s title track, “Beyond The Door” is reminiscent of the Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks” in its progression, and features loads of the Macdonald’s signature harmonies as well as clever key changes and searing guitar solos. Listen to the official audio below.
“Ice Cream Strange And Pleasing” and “What’s A Boy To Do” are the album’s most poppy, jangly tracks. “Ice Cream Strange And Pleasing” is slightly psychedelic dreampop with huge Queen-esque guitar thrown in, and “What’s A Boy To Do” is perfectly arranged straightforward powerpop, and perhaps my favorite track on the album- it can be streamed now on Spotify and Redd Kross’ bandcamp page.
Tracks “There’s No One Like You” and “When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way’” give Jeff a break from lead vocals, which surprisingly changes the feel of the tracks quite a bit. Both have a bit more of a 90s alternative vibe, and are both solid tunes, but aren’t my favorites of the album.
The album is insanely well produced- after so many years together, the band really knows how to capture the sound they want- a sound which they describe as, “pre-spandex, glam bubblegum garage psychedelic Cheap Trick/Kiss/Revolver post-Kim Fowley rock and roll. Degenerate, sweet: tongues in cheek, song-long winks.” Nothing is lost in the mix, despite there being so many things going on in each song. Such high level pop-style production is too often avoided on rock records.
Redd Kross’ commitment to having the best time they can can be heard throughout every minute of Beyond The Door, and it makes the album a party we’re all invited to. Brilliantly written and expertly produced, Beyond The Door is one of the best of the band’s discography. Beyond the Door can be pre-ordered now on CD, digitally, and on limited-edition opaque purple Peak Vinyl in the Merge store. “The Party Underground”, “Beyond The Door” and “What’s A Boy To Do” are all available for streaming now on Spotify, and the official music video for “Beyond The Door” is set for release any day now.
Following Beyond The Door’s release, Redd Kross head out on tour with the Melvins, stopping in nearly 50 cities across the US from September through November. POW will be there for Redd Kross’ Portland show, so stay tuned!
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