By Cody Mello-Klein
As a band coming back from a long hiatus there is always the threat of getting trapped by something I like to call the “time travel syndrome.” In this scenario an individual, or group, is thrown into the future only to find that everything they have known and done is either obsolete or seen as “nostalgia.” On the most recent release by alt-rock, power pop band Redd Kross, Researching the Blues, an album that comes after a 15 year hiatus, the band contends with this “syndrome” and attempts to put themselves back on the map.
From the very first track it becomes apparent that Redd Kross has not made an attempt to advance their music since the release of their last album, 1997’s Show World. There has obviously been a large gap since their last release so either the band is taking advantage of all this 90’s nostalgia that is currently happening or they are stubbornly clinging to old habits. Either way, this immediately drags the album down, for every single sound on this album has been heard before, either from Redd Kross or any number of 90’s-pop rock acts.
The hooks, guitar riffs, and chord progressions are all from that utopian realm of mid-90’s rock music that everybody is melancholy for. “Stay Away from Downtown” is the most obvious example of this with its lightly-distorted guitar riff and the type of vocal hook execution that was heard throughout the 90’s.
However, despite all this, or rather because of this, the album does serve as a rather good piece of nostalgia. It will inevitably take people down a trip to memory lane, with its catchy pop-rock songs serving as little pit-stops along the way. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help the album for very long, as songs begin to blend together due to the use of the same, or similar, tempos, chord progressions, guitar sounds, and vocal hooks. The guitar wok of Robert Hecker does shine through at times, occasionally resulting in an interesting solo or riff (“Uglier”), and despite the time since their last release, Jeff McDonald’s vocals, although lacking in range, still hold up after all these years.
Ultimately, Redd Kross really doesn’t take advantage of the situation that this album presented them with, that is the chance to create something new and to move their music into the new century. Instead, the band opts for a trip into 90’s nostalgia, which of course has its charms but lacks any experimentation or, in fact, a shelf life beyond a first listen.