Monday, April 21, 2008

Redd Kross - Trance

Here is another example of a band not getting adequate distribution for some of their most hit-worthy music.

In 1990 Redd Kross released their major-label debut, Third Eye, on Atlantic Records. The album--which sounded like a cross between Cheap Trick and The Partridge Family--probably came as something of shock to anyone who still thought of the band as the obnoxious teen punks who wrote "Annette's Got the Hits." Third Eye was gloriously glossy and commercial, dripping with hooks and a post-modern appreciation of junk culture. You used to have to send away box tops from sugary cereals in order to get songs this catchy, but Redd Kross delivered eleven gorgeous bubblegum nuggets on an easy to find Compact Disc. But despite being inarguably one of the two of three greatest albums ever recorded, Third Eye tanked commercially and Atlantic dropped the band.

The McDonald brothers re-grouped with new musicians including guitarist Eddie Kurdziel, keyboardist Gere Fennelly and drummer Brian Reitzell, and released a couple of independent singles before being signed to Mercury for 1993's Phaseshifter.

"Trance" and "Byrds And Fleas" find the band toughening up their sound, reintroducing some of the punk energy and aggression they had moved away from on Third Eye, while still retaining the chewy deliciousness that characterizes the best bubblegum pop. These would have been the perfect songs to introduce the band to post-Nevermind alt-rock radio, but unfortunately they only received limited distribution. Both songs were released as a 7" and CD single on the tiny Seminal Twang label, a limited edition Australian tour EP, and limited edition EP on Sympathy For the Record Industry. In short, they showed up everywhere except where they really belonged, on a well-distributed major label release.

Phaseshifter was a very good album, but these two songs easily top anything on it. Ironically, "Huge Wonder," the weakest song from the Seminal Twang CD single, appeared in a re-recorded version on the album. Why didn't either of these songs? I haven't a clue.


dan said...

Great EP. The version of Huge Wonder on this EP is better than the one that appeared on the album, I think. I'm not knocking Phaseshifter, mind you.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, Phaseshifter kind of went over my head. It seemed like they were going for a Alice Cooper vibe but missed.

I saw them last month and the Phaseshifter songs came off better than I remembered them.


Pete Bilderback said...

I liked Phaseshifter but my expectations for it were pretty high because of how great this single was, so when it came out I felt a little let down.

I think I agree with Dan that the version of "Huge Wonder" on the Seminal Twang CD single is better than the one that appeared on Phaseshifter, but sometimes I think I just tend to like the version I heard first, so I'm not sure.

dan said...

Here's a youtube link of Redd Kross playing the mighty "Lady in the Front Row" on Jon Stewart's old show. It's a great performance from the Phaseshifter era, and it's useful measurement tool to see how short Stewart is.

Pete Bilderback said...

The McDonald's are tall. I stood next to Steven McDonald once and was eye level with his rabbit fur coat. Then again, I'm short.

max said...

The best thing ever was 2500 fans can't be wrong, ep vinyl that had a lot of these songs on it. My wife gave me a turntable for my birthday, so I've been rediscovering stuff. My initial impression of Phaseshifter was as a step down, as well. But, it was all I had, so I listened to it until classic. I think actually the too-smooth production got a bit in the way. There's something more ragged and engaging and live about the 2500 Fans.

Dig Me Out Podcast said...

Check out a podcast review of Phaseshifter by Redd Kross on Dig Me Out at, a weekly podcast dedicated to revisiting forgotten gems and uncovering overlooked albums of the 1990s.