California Sounds: Redd Kross returns, Colleen Green covers Blink-182, S.I.R. teams with Kendrick Lamar
Redd Kross, “Beyond the Door” (Merge)
Nearly four decades ago, two misfit teenage brothers with the last name McDonald issued a 45 on the L.A. indie Posh Boy. In doing so, Red Cross became the youngest L.A. punk band to make a dent in the national conversation. Across those decades, Jeff McDonald and Steven McDonald changed the spelling of their band’s name (a certain humanitarian organization took issue); made a series of killer EPs and albums tapping glam rock, B-movies and girl-group oldies; signed a multimillion-dollar deal with Atlantic Records; got dropped from that same deal; got married, had kids and kept playing.
This is a roundabout way of saying that while many decent Los Angeles rock bands have come and gone, the brothers McDonald have not only endured, but prevailed. Their first album in seven years is named after an Italian horror film and mixes ’60s-era Sunset Strip sounds. Think of it as the Beatles’ album “Revolver” as channeled through Marshall stacks and the scream-along glam anthems of Sweet and the Bay City Rollers. Among the non-musical inspirations on the record, which they detail in press notes: “K-pop, glitter gangs, embarrassed tweens, long-term relationships [and] a mysterious character named Fantástico Roberto.”
With its scream-along opening, the title track suggests early Quiet Riot — except dosed with wink-wink irony. “Punk II” is driven by drummer Dale Crover’s hard pound, adding the kind of heft he brings to his primary band, the Melvins. (The groups will perform together at the Troubadour on Sept. 5.)
Perhaps the best signal of their approach comes via Redd Kross’ cover of “When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’” by L.A. art-rock band Sparks. The 1994 song, about existential despair, revels in regret while holding onto a touch of hope: “So when do I get to sing ‘My Way’? / When do I get to feel like Sinatra felt? / When do I get to sing “My Way’? / In heaven or hell’?”
It’s a valid question for both beloved (but underappreciated) sibling bands. Redd Kross renders the question moot, though, via the songs on “Beyond the Door.” With each verse, chorus and guitar solo, Redd Kross proves that they’ve been singing their variation on “My Way” their entire lives.
Colleen Green, “Blink-182’s ‘Dude Ranch’ as Played by Colleen Green” (Bandcamp)
In the early ‘10s, singer and songwriter Green completed a project that she’d long contemplated: A full album rendition of Blink-182’s third album, “Dude Ranch.” Then her computer crashed and she lost it. Her commitment to covering what she describes in advance notes as her “favorite album of all time” never waned, though, and she recently unveiled her second attempt at celebrating the pop-punk band’s 1997 album — on bass.
Those familiar with Green’s work might be surprised at her choice. Across four full-lengths, she’s mixed Casio-toned post-punk, Ramones-style directness and biting lines about dudes and their many issues.
But her voice, coupled with the bass-only minimalism, transforms Blink-182’s aggro-emo songs about isolation, desire and creepiness. “Crossed the street, naked at night/Bent over to show some moonlight,” she sings in “Degenerate,” one of many songs whose subtext shifts with gender. What in a man’s voice recounts a weird bender, in a woman’s suggests sexual assault. “Pulled out some beer and I gulped it down/Nude in a gutter is how I was found.”
In “Josie,” Green relays, without switching pronouns, lines sung on the original by Blink’s Mark Hoppus: “Yeah, my girlfriend takes collect calls from the road/And it doesn’t seem to matter that I’m lacking in the bulge.”
S.I.R. featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Hair Down” (Top Dawg)
The woozy new R&B track from the Inglewood crooner takes a lyrical tour of Los Angeles — he calls it taking his city “on a test drive” — as he confesses his hopes, fears and desires, both romantically and professionally. As S.I.R. explains on his Genius page, he wrote it while on tour with labelmates Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock. “I was having trouble with myself and just my confidence. I wrote that for myself, trying to just give myself some motivation.” (Note: The music video below contains profanity and is NSFW.)
It worked. The down-tempo track crawls, but like the hovercraft-Chevy in the track’s video, seems to float effortlessly. As is often the case, when Kendrick Lamar arrives, he pushes “Hair Down” further toward the sublime, rapping of “psychedelic views and infinity pools,” damage fees, gold dust, numerology and anesthesia. At one point he advises on local real estate: “Calabas’ ain’t the move, that’s where everybody live / Plus the mountain is hot — you forgot what you got.”
Your essential guide to the arts in L.A.
Get Carolina A. Miranda's weekly newsletter for what's happening, plus openings, critics' picks and more.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.