REDD KROSS – ” Neurotica ” 35th-Anniversary Edition

Posted: December 31, 2022 in MUSIC

Merge Records is thrilled to release the 35th anniversary edition of “Neurotica”, the 1987 power pop and alternative rock opus by Redd Kross. By this point, it seems obvious that classic rock helped influence the bands that would go on to launch the hardcore movement. But in 1987, when the L.A. quartet Redd Kross dove headfirst into power pop and glam with “Neurotica”, it was practically sacrilegious for punks to wear those influences on their sleeve—a move that Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman considered “really punk.” Redd Kross may have started out in the same scene that incubated the likes of Black Flag and The Circle Jerks, but their unabashed taste for the sweetness of Beatles harmonies and all manner of pop-culture tchotchke may as well have put them in another world.

“Neurotica” could be viewed as a This Is Your Life-esque document of what brothers Jeff & Steve McDonald had been working toward creatively since starting Redd Kross in their Hawthorne, CA living room circa 1978. The songs quake with punk rock fury. And how could they possibly have shaken off the untamed energy of their early Red Cross years which laid a foundation for Southern California hardcore punk and DIY culture. But fury is only part of their formula. To find the other parts, travel back to the ‘70s, when the McDonald boys lived for nothing but Saturday morning cartoons, sugary cereal, bubblegum pop singles, Beach Boys LPs, Partridge Family TV specials and the arena rock guitars of KISS and Cheap Trick.

Whereas most self-respecting punk rockers would have sneered at ‘60s/‘70s radio and pop culture schmaltz (even if they secretly liked it), that was all a tremendous part of the Redd Kross DNA. And the McDonalds wore those influences on their dayglo sleeves. They decontextualized the macho, sometimes saccharine, sound of classic rock, celebrating its bombast without falling into its pretentious pitfalls. They played what sounded good to them. If along the way they could convince you that those David Cassidy AM radio singles were actually great and subversive in their own way, that was just an added bonus. Their technicolor punk rock was first explored on “Teen Babes From Monsanto” in 1984. But “Neurotica” is where the Redd Kross sound gelled into something miraculous. The McDonalds enlisted a grand crew: guitarist Robert Hecker, keyboardist Paul Roessler (Screamers, Nervous Gender) and Roy McDonald on drums (The Muffs). In the producer’s chair was Tom Erdelyi aka Tommy Ramone, one of the originators of punk rock melody. Unshakeable hooks on tracks like “Peach Kelli Pop” inspired rave reviews upon release.

“In an age when too many bands base their music either on calculated career moves or heavy-handed pretentiousness,” the LA Times wrote, “Redd Kross is as breezy as a kiss in the wind, a band born to rock in a world that forgot how.” Decades later, Pitchfork would revisit the album with a glowing review: “Pop culture nostalgia was to Redd Kross what LSD was to the Butthole Surfers; their music was delivered with just as furious a passion, but their love for Beatles-esque pop harmony shone through as much as any punk sensibility, and their Kinks influences, entirely free of irony, served as lyrical substance over their powerful, hi-octane hooks.” Plain and simple, it’s just a fantastic piece of art. Unsurprising that something of this caliber would hatch from the minds of two brothers who changed the face of punk rock before they were old enough to drive a car and the face of alternative rock before they were old enough to rent one.

Produced by original Ramones drummer Tommy Erdelyi, it’s easy to see why “Neurotica” went on to become a cult classic that galvanized groups like The Replacements, Nirvana, Superchunk and others. This version from Merge Records marks the album’s second reissue, and this time it comes with 12 demos that contrast enough with the finished songs that they justify purchasing the album again. Befitting of the music’s spirit and temperament, this new version doesn’t come with liner notes so much as a napkin note from the band’s original A&R rep Geoffrey Weiss, who writes “Neurotica” changed the world, even if it took a little longer than we planned.”

This reissue will be available worldwide on a single CD or colour vinyl 2LP. Both formats include the original album, remastered by JJ Golden (Pearl Jam, Thee Oh Sees), as well as 12 previously unreleased demos from the era

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