Lost in the ’90s: Redd Kross, “Show World”

lit90s

Punk legends in Los Angeles before they could legally drink, Jeff and Steve McDonald spent most of the ’80s as a cult sensation, loved as much for their pop culture references (name-checking everyone from Linda Blair to the Brady Bunch to Charles Manson) as they were for their thrashy brand of bubblegum-laced power-pop.  As the ’90s dawned, the band entered a new phase, signing to Atlantic Records for their major-label debut, Third Eye.  You may recognize the title, since, despite being a killer album, it filled cutout bins nationwide almost immediately after its release, and Atlantic dumped the boys.  It was a matter of bad timing, since two short years later, a little trio from Seattle named Nirvana would take that same Knack-goes-to-a-Black-Flag-show concept and change alternative music forever.

After Nevermind opened commercial radio and MTV up to what we old people called “college rock,” the time was ripe for Redd Kross to finally get its due.  With a new line-up, the McDonalds scored a new deal with Mercury Records which released Phaseshifter, Redd Kross’s most accessible set yet.  While the video for “Jimmy’s Fantasy” got a few spins on MTV’s “120 Minutes,” Modern Rock radio wasn’t biting and despite being the best-reviewed album of their career, Phaseshifter failed to shift any units.

Give Mercury credit for sticking with the band, though, giving them a another shot with the truly stellar Show World in 1997.  With the recent crop of power-pop heroes like Matthew Sweet scoring radio hits and gold records, it really did seem like Redd Kross’s time had finally arrived – the rest of the world just may have finally caught up.  Now when Jeff sang lines like, “I don’t wanna make decisions anymore / Because I’m lazy” in his best John Lennon growl, it belong firmly in the zeitgeist.  “Stoned” (download) was worked as Show World‘s first track, and I remember WENZ The End, Cleveland’s alternative rock station of the moment, embracing the single for about a week or so.  Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to create much of a buzz.

Mercury stuck in there, though, and released an ode to a newly found love of monogamy, “Mess Around” (download) as the album’s second single, this time with a video to match.  I remember the McDonalds on MTV talking about this video – they claimed to intentionally pick the absolute worst treatment for the clip that was submitted, just so they could see how awful and cliched the end product would be.

Despite a catchy hook and sweet message, “Mess Around” didn’t scare up much business either, so a third single, “Get Out Of Myself,” (download) was worked.  A total ’70s love letter down to the flange effects, it also boasted a cute clip of the boys at a “photo session,” complete with costumes and plenty of camp poses:
Again, you have to give Mercury Records credit for working the album as long as they did.  Show World should have been Redd Kross’s mainstream breakthrough, but as it was, it signaled a ten-year hiatus for the group, as they took time off for side projects galore.  They reunited in 2006 for live shows and are currently (slowly) at work on a new album.  Check ’em out on their snazzy new website, which also features the McDonalds starring in an online sitcom with the killer title “Bitchin’ Ass.”
None of the singles charted.

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