Review: A Redd Kross Rescue

Redd Kross/Neurotica (reissue)/Merge
3.5 out of five stars

Videos by American Songwriter

A rowdy and raucous affair, even by power-pop standards, Neurotica, the unbridled opus by the alternative outfit known as Redd Kross, shook some musical foundations when it was originally released in 1987. And while a 37th-anniversary edition seems an odd number in terms of commemoration, this newly remastered edition, available as a double CD as well as a two-LP edition, ought to find favor with completists and devotees alike. A dozen demos augment the original 14-song set, adding extra impact to what was always something of an audio extravaganza. 

Each of the original offerings found the band, originally founded by brothers Jeff McDonald and Steve McDonald, in their Hawthorne, California living room circa 1978. Heavily influenced by the hardcore punk ethos of Southern California—specifically bands like Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, and the Descendents—they fused the cultural norms of early adolescence with the influence of various icons of that earlier era and came up with a sound that resonated with irresistible hooks and ready refrains, allowing them to maintain their absolute devotion to more melodic intents. So even while songs such as the title track, “Janus, Jenny and George Harrison,” “McKenzie,” “Peach Kelli Pop,” “What They Say,” and “Play My Song” spewed pure sonic outrage, they also allowed opportunity for an occasional softer sojourn like “Love Is You,” “Pink Piece of Peace” and “It’s the Little Things,” the latter two selections included as bonus tracks on the original 2002 reissue.

It all served its intended purpose. Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman was once quoted as saying, “Neurotica was a life changer for me and for a lot of people in the Seattle music community. For [a band] to embrace something so unapologetically crass and packaged—there was something really punk about doing that then.” Redd Kross, in turn, served as a lightning rod for a number of important outfits that would follow—the Replacements, Superchunk, and Nirvana, among them. 

Notably, the demo disc finds the band more cognizant of both song structure and their own melodic constraints. Each of these entries would have worked well had the band opted not to embellish them any further. As a result, they make for an interesting alternative to the original album, and in turn, well worth the cost of additional investment. 

Punk and pop, garage, and grunge were fused so specifically that they were eventually able to establish a signature sound of their own making. In fact, they establish a mantra of sorts: “You can write a chorus that your own mother could hum along to and still be considered the baddest band on the fucking planet.”

Both then and now, Neurotica proves that point succinctly.

Photo by John Scarpati / Merge Records

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