It’s odd to think of Los Angeles punk band Redd Kross as a legacy act, considering its bassist Steven McDonald learned his instrument at age 11, shortly before he and older brother Jeff, 15, opened for Black Flag in the early ’80s. But more than three decades later, here they are, delivering the kind of fuzzed-out melodies and explosive girl-group harmonies that at their 1980s prime propelled them to near-stardom.
Equally strange is the notion that the band, which has returned from a 15-year hiatus with a new studio album, wouldn’t be as well known to indie kids in 2012 as peers Sonic Youth, the Jesus and Mary Chain and Dinosaur Jr. are, considering that at Redd Kross’ popular peak they were as acclaimed as any of them. Their glam-punk classic “Neurotica” fed Beatle-esque joy and punk energy through proto-grunge fuzz-boxes, and their cover of the Shangri-Las’ hit “Heaven Only Knows” filtered the Ramones’ NYC pop-punk through the light of the California sun. Had not the brothers made the crucial, and, in hindsight, career-destroying decision to commit to Atlantic Records in the post-Nirvana signing frenzy, Redd Kross might have been huge.
Their new album, “Researching the Blues,” offers ample evidence that it’s not too late. The record features 10 urgent, insistent rock ’n’ roll gems, and only occasionally reveals any hint of musical crow’s-feet or outdated outfits of rock ’n’ roll elder statesmen.