Redd Kross

Researching the Blues

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After Jeff and Steven McDonald reconvened Redd Kross in 2006 (with the late-'80s line-up of guitarist Robert Hecker and drummer Roy McDonald), they seemed content to play the occasional festival show or short tour. For Redd Kross fans waiting for more music, it looked like 1997's Show World might be it as far as new albums went. The brothers had a trick up their sleeve, though, and in 2012 they released Researching the Blues, a self-produced album that not only continues their stellar recorded legacy but gives it an electric boost. Not only is it their best-sounding album yet, totally alive and raw, but it contains some of the hookiest songs and most thrilling performances of their almost-35-year career in rock & roll. Not that the brothers are all that old, but it sure sounds like they've tapped into some secret fountain of youth. Jeff McDonald's voice sounds exactly like it always has, maybe even better; the band plays with a fire that any band made up of 20-year-olds would be lucky to tap into, and most of the songs have instant classic status. The hard rock songs like "Researching the Blues" and "Uglier" have the thunderous force that you'd expect from the group, but the best part of the album is the sweet and light power pop songs that form its core. "One of the Good Ones" bops along happily like a mid-period Beatles song, "Dracula's Daughter" is a lovely ballad that shows off the brother's always strong harmony vocals, "Winter Blues" is a chiming folk-rock tune that has an amped-up Byrds influence, and "Meet Frankenstein" has an amazing vocal melody that McCartney would be proud to call his own. It's always been easy to overlook the romantic nature of the band that ran underneath the loud guitars and outfits, but it's always been there and it proudly steps to the front on Researching. The more cynical listeners may call it a mellowing, but that discounts the passion, energy, and power the band invest in the album. In fact, based on how hooky the songs are, how thrilling the performances are, and how great it all sounds, this may be the band's best record yet. If only every band that came back from years of inactivity, came back this strong.

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