This isn’t your every-month, crappy reunion record. Yes, Redd Kross’ latest release, Researching the Blues is their first album in 15 years (and their first on Merge Records), and yes, the band has about three decades of history behind them. But after the super-lean album spins to a close, you’re left with the realization that Researching the Blues possesses something that fans could only dream about from a band that hasn’t released new material since 1997.
When you hold it up to other recent reformations—The Beach Boys, who also were getting close to a two-decade wait for an album, come to mind—Researching the Blues breezes through the finish line where others are left in the dust, hacking up a fit and grabbing at their knees.
Instead of phoning it in, Redd Kross delivers where others can’t. The album’s opener and title track offer a jarring reminder that the McDonald brothers—Jeff (vocals/guitar) and Steven (bass)—are still making some awesome, rock ‘n’ roll racket. The pace builds from there with instantly hummable, huge anthems in “Stay Away from Downtown” and “Uglier,” and by the time the album even thinks to take a breath with “Dracula’s Daughter,” it’s almost half over.
But one of the band’s main assets on Blues is its restraint. Any of the opening tracks could give way to some sloppy garage-rock leanings, but before diverting too far, the guys usually reel it in for a hard-hitting, air-tight chorus. Redd Kross serves great songs before any aesthetic and lets raw energy dictate where those songs should go. And when you’re coming back after 15 years without an album, that’s how it should be. In fact, maybe we should call this what it really is: Redd Kross 2.0’s incredible debut.