Monday, July 14, 2008

Notes, Chords and Me

My first guitar was a black, splatter-painted, imitation Gibson with three strings. It was also my last guitar. In the first blush of infatuation, I attacked that guitar with fingers and pick but nothing coherent emerged from that machine, even after I upgraded to a full brace of strings.

I kept that guitar till one day, in a pique of failure-induced nausea, I lashed out at the beast: first with a hammer, then with a jagged rock before finally pitching it out the window of my third-story apartment. When it hit the ground, the neck snapped off with a satisfying twang. It gave me a new respect for the work of Pete Townsend.

So what song did I imagine playing both while strumming and while destroying? Why, Notes and Chords Mean Nothing to Me by Red Cross of course.

I’m only mildly acquainted with Red Krossridiculous yet perverse history, so I encourage you to peruse the story as soon as we’re done talking about me.

After they became Redd Kross and issued the oft-loved “Neurotica” people raved, “They’re like an ironic bubblegum Kiss”. But without songs it all just seemed so arch. So after years of ignoring the Brothers McDonald, last week I had “Show World” rammed down my throat (not entirely metaphorically). And it rocked. For this album Redd Kross made their (third or fourth) grab at the brass ring, missed it and clenched something all together better. Instead of Ironic-Bubblegum-Kiss, it’s actual power-pop – the often fey American version but rocked out beyond Cheap Trick’s dream.

This album may dally with 1990’s production values (see the intro to “Kiss the Goat” or don’t) but it’s always the 1970’s in the McDonald’s universe. What’s fascinating for the listener is how many wildly disparate elements of that decade’s flotsam and jetsam they’re willing to pinch. Pretty Please Me is stolen from the mid-70’s LA wuss-pop legends the Quick, layered bubblegum choruses buoy even the weaker tracks such as Teen Competition and the Carpenters re-appear on the string-accompanied Secret Life while Get Out of Myself emulates the ’79 power-pop rockers the Records. Even the ever-present Beatles-isms, like Lied Again and Mess Around seem copped from the hit-after-hit-after-hit Red and Blue comps of 1973.

So what was Red Kross’ reward for putting out the greatest album of their career? Indigence, indifference and an indefinite hiatus. Things may be changing now, Borack chose Show World for his Best 200 Power-Pop Album list (though it remains out-of-print) and the band is preparing a new album and I’m willing to admit that despite my attempts to play the ukulele, the piano, the guitar and the bass that I remain simply a listener.


And for obsessives (which is MRML's target audience after all) here's, "Black Shampoo" a bootleg of the "Show World" demos.



  1. Thank you so much for Black Shampoo
    Fantastic post, I would like to ask a question, the file contains the back cover artwork, do you know where I could find the front cover ?
    would like to burn this onto cd with full artwork
    Again, thanks for this great albumg

  2. Funny,I was just thinking about this cd today, and it popped up on your blog! Thanks for posting this, it is a great set of tunes

  3. Fulhamx

    There is a CD cover but it's in some ungainly format.

    Will work on it...


    You're welcome - It's a damn great album!

  4. nice job. i'm a huge redd kross fan... the show in ny last winter was awesome.
    i was about to open up one of my veins when i read your post. now, i just might make it through the day.

  5. Nazz

    High praise from such an ass-kicking blogger.

    You're comment made me think of this quote:

    "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."

    Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

    P.S. Was never sure of which category to add you under - so I added you into MP3 blogs.

  6. I feel your pain my brother, That is why I started palying the drums. Thanks for this wonderful share.

    Curty Ray

  7. muchos grassy-ass-
    i am returning the link in my omfug

  8. Curty

    I did briefly own a pair of drumsticks which drove the landlord who lived downstairs crazy...

    Damn the talentless!


    Thanks for the add.

  9. Cool Redd Kross Post!! Keep up the great work!!

  10. Thanks Red - yourself as well.

    Maybe one of us will post those great Roger Miller albums.


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