Redd Kross

Mercury Records, 1993

REVIEW BY: George Agnos


The simplest way to describe the Los Angeles rock band Redd Kross is that they are the Smashing Pumpkins with a sense of humor. They remind me of the Pumpkins on the way their songs range from grunge to sweet pop. I wouldn't say lead singer Jeffrey McDonald sounds like Billy Corgan, but his pipes are not too far away from Corgan's either. He and his brother, bassist Steven McDonald, write most of the somewhat off-center songs. I suspect it is their sense of humor that kept Redd Kross form achieving success since alternative rock bands are supposed to be whiny and depressed according to the music industry.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The 1993 album Phaseshifter immediately sets up the different sides of the Redd Kross world. The first song "Jimmy's Fantasy" sounds like your typical grunge song of the day - edgy with an aggressive guitar assault. However, the lyrics are a bit smirky in their references. This song is followed by one nice slice of hard-edged power pop called "Lady In The Front Row", a clever love song that sounds like 70's bubblegum rock in melody, although the guitars are louder and more accomplished.

Phaseshifter pretty much alternates between more rock-oriented and poppier songs throughout the whole album. "Crazy World" goes for straight grunge as the lyrics are angry and cynical. "Huge Wonder" is a slow but hard rocker. And the album ends in rousing fashion with the punky raveup "After School Special". I like the beautiful piano interlude by Gere Fennelly that eventually breaks up into a punk frenzy with the guitars slowly sneaking in.

On the pop side, "Saragon" is pure bubblegum, even instrumentally. "Dumb Angel" tempers McDonald's and Edward Kurdziel's razor sharp guitar playing with a nice rhythmic piano part. "Ms. Lady Evans" sounds like something off the third Go-Go's album. Incidentally former Go-Go's bassist Charlotte Caffrey gets songwriting credit for "Pay For Love", a witty song that is about a guy looking for love but only finding prostitutes.

So is Phaseshifter as good as any of the Smashing Pumpkins albums? Well, there is no song here as powerful as their best songs like "Bullet On Butterfly Wings", for example. On the other hand, this album doesn't have some of the excesses found on most Pumpkins albums. Redd Kross, unlike the Pumpkins, are aware of their limitations and do not overreach. The bottom line is this is an all around good album that makes alternative rock fun. Imagine that! If the Pumpkins ever came out with an album like this, it might not be their greatest, but they could do a lot worse, and actually, they have.

Rating: B

User Rating: B


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