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.boomp3.com
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.