Teen Babes From Monsanto / Hot Issue [reissues]
Redd Kross were among the most curious of post-punk entities: a Los Angeles band that didn’t really seem all that…LA. They were essentially an Anglophilic power pop group, done up in glittering glam-rock frippery (brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald were almost too adorable, with long, auburn locks and slinky sly smiles), and yet also one whose closest associations were with the burgeoning West Coast hardcore scene. Imagine.
More than a decade after their celebrated 2004 reunion, Merge is generously reissuing their less well-known 1984 EP Teen Babes From Monsanto, as well as the 2016 odds n’ sods collection Hot Issue.
As for the former, it’s a record of mostly covers—and whether you align with their musical tastes or not, it is definitely a pleasure hearing them bludgeon all the lumbering machismo out of Kiss’s “Deuce,” while morphing it into a banshee-wail of a stormer. The Stones’ “Citadel” is an artful remake that suits them more stylistically, even if they do massively fuzz it out (something they seemingly just can’t help).
Bowie’s “Saviour Machine” is given a bit too sludgy a treatment, even if the harmonies (a Redd Kross specialty, darling) are utterly glorious. But the absolute killer here is a crunching, wall-of-sound update of ABBA’s always-riveting “Dancing Queen” (they even punk up the lyrics), which just might be one of the most perfectly realized covers ever, ever, ever.
Hot Issue, a gathering of Redd Kross rarities recorded between 1980 and 2007, rousingly reminds you of what skillful sponges these boys were, soaking up the best of non-terrible pre–punk rock (The Sweet, Mott the Hoople, Cheap Trick, Slade) and joyfully reinterpreting it all for a punk-aware generation. It’s worth the price alone for the awesome “Switchblade Sister” and “Insatiable Kind,” absolute paradigms of, um, bubblegum-glam metal—a made-up genre there can really never be enough of.
It’s really about the sheer thrill of Redd Kross’ ability to just matter-of-factly, glam-a-riffically rock the fuck out, while never depriving listeners of any magnificent melodic majesty. This is all truly the product of a gloriously misspent youth—and now you can go back and (mis)spend it with them.