Formed in Hawthorne, California, in 1980 by siblings and teenage punks Steve and Jeff McDonald, Redd Kross has exerted a subtle but formidable influence over the cooler spaces of the music realm over the past four decades. The band's influence, though, hasn't been commensurate with its relative obscurity. With roots that run deep in the original SoCal hardcore scene—Redd Kross's first show was opening for Black Flag—the McDonald brothers quickly established a penchant for rendering melodic tunes in an ambitious variety of styles far beyond the implicit limits of hardcore's exhausting hard-fast rules. The band's dabbling deprived it of a natural constituency amid punk and hardcore true believers, but Redd Kross's vibrant creative wanderlust has nearly always led to great music, while almost inevitably wrong-footing potential consumers.
Cheerfully unselfconscious while rendering a mind-bending amalgam of blooze-addled surf, Sonics-inspired three-chord stomp, and occasional forays into easy listening, Redd Kross was aggressively subversive enough to resemble both the Meat Puppets at their weirdest and the Replacements at their most unhinged. Following their trash-culture debut, Born Innocent, with its paeans to Lita Ford and Linda Blair, the group's varied influences were cast into bold relief on 1984's covers-only tour-de-force, Teen Babes From Monsanto, whose fixations on early rock and glam served to further separate the band from its brethren in aesthetic terms. Reflecting on that release, which the band is performing in its entirety on its current tour, Steve McDonald recalls: "My brother has always been a rock historian. More than anything I think Jeff viewed Teen Babes as a rock history lesson for punkers, metal heads, or whoever."
Inevitably swept up into the alt-rock boom of the early nineties, Redd Kross signed to Atlantic Records and released a formidable trio of fuzz-coated power pop records casting a half-hearted eye towards crossover success. When that stardom predictably failed to materialize, the band went on a lengthy hiatus before eventually returning with the characteristically charming 2012 Merge release, Researching the Blues. On its current tour, the wizened music lifers are joined by the similarly stalwart Dale Crover on drums, with the erstwhile Dwarves mastermind already credited with catalyzing a new, more active agenda for Redd Kross. With a busy touring schedule and a new record in the offing, the brothers McDonald appear poised and ready to continue building upon their shimmering, shadowy rock 'n' roll legacy.—Timothy Bracy