Redd Kross

Beyond the Door

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Considering that Redd Kross have been around in one form or another for 40 years, it's surprising that they haven't released many records. This is only their seventh, and since 2012's Researching the Blues was recorded in 2007, it means Beyond the Door is the first album in a decade for the McDonald brothers, Jeff and Steven. Working with guitarist Jason Shapiro (late of Celebrity Skin) and drummer Dale Crover (of the Melvins), they don't do anything much differently than they ever have. Crunching guitar riffs, bubblegummy melodies, and pop-culture-heavy lyrics are still the order of the day; Jeff's vocals are still rock & roll perfection and the group play with an equal amount of swagger and joy. There are a few minor alterations to the formula: Crover is no doubt the heaviest drummer the band has ever employed, Steven and Jeff collaborated more on songs and singing than since they were kids, and one of the songs -- "There's No One Like You" -- is an unabashedly sweet ode to fatherhood written and sung by Steven. The brilliantly epic cover of Sparks' synth pop tune "When Do I Get to Sing 'My Way'" that recasts it as a searching glam rocker sung with gusto by Steven is another wonderful surprise. The band has always had a way with a cover and their skills haven't deserted them. Their knack for writing songs that sound like vintage Cheap Trick played by the Sweet is still fully operational too. The swooning psych-pop confection "Ice Cream (Strange and Pleasing)" and the loose and fun "Jane Hoople" are fine examples of how their melodic skills and rock & roll bona fides collide in splendid fashion. So is the wonderfully hooky ballad "What's a Boy to Do?" -- a track that immediately vaults into the upper echelon of Redd Kross' output. Other songs lean hard into the rock side of the equation, like "Fighting," a rollicking blast of rock action where the brothers trade off lead vocals and the guitars throw off sparks, and the good-time rocker "The Party Underground," which features lead guitar from Crover's bandmate Buzz Osbourne. Like that song, the whole album revolves around the idea of rock & roll as a freeing source of energy, a nonstop party that can uplift those who embrace it. The McDonald brothers are living proof of that idea, and Beyond the Door is another example of how pure their love for the form is and how powerfully they channel the true unadulterated ideals of the music. Hopefully it won't be another decade before they put out another installment of the Redd Kross story, but no matter how long it takes, if the product is this much uncompromised fun, it will be worth the wait.

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