Redd Kross: “Annie’s Gone”
This is a good one for the Where Are They Now? files: Redd Kross, at one time a very bright spot on the alternative scene back in the Golden Age of Alternative Rock in the late 1980s through the 1990s (not to be confused with the Golden Age of New Wave and Punk in the late 1970s and early 1980s, or the Golden Age of Indie Rock in the 2000s, or the Golden Age of Making Up Names of Golden Ages in March 2012). A Los Angeles band fronted by brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald since they were in their mid-teens in the early ’80s, Redd Kross disappeared after the release of their 1997 Show World, and the death of a band member. But at their peak they were among the most influential (although not well-known) bands on the course of alternative rock. In fact, many notable names have claimed them to be a key influence on the development of the grunge scene (although they themselves wouldn’t be considered grunge): among others, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth; Jonathan Poneman, co-founder of Sub Pop Records, who said their 1987 album, Neurotica, was “a life changer for me and for a lot of people in the Seattle music community”; Scott Weiland; and Kurt Cobain himself, who reportedly spent a lot of time listening to Neurotica (a possible influence on the band name, “Nirvana,” which was chosen that same year?).
Redd Kross’s music was a blend of power pop, punk, KISS, and Conjunction Junction. That last is to say that they had a streak of Saturday morning cartoon coursing through their veins — they had fun making punky, sugary confections that went down easy but still rocked hard. Although Neurotica may have been a milestone for them, my favorite Redd Kross album was 1990’s Third Eye, another true classic. An album that any fan of the Hoodoo Gurus would appreciate, it’s full of great songs, like “Shonen Knife” (a tribute to the Japanese power-pop trio of the same name) and, arguably, Redd Kross’s best song: “Annie’s Gone.” It’s a perfect nugget of power pop, balancing the tension in the verses with the release of the super-catchy chorus — it’s a wonder of rock dynamics, a perfect model that any band could learn from, no matter the style of music. Regardless of the fact that it might be about a drug casualty, or at the very least a sad song about a friend who has gone away, it’s bound to bring a smile to your face — definitely one of the classics of that era.