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Redd Kross

It all started in the innocuous Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, notable pretty much only for being the home of The Beach Boys, where in the McDonald household a couple of bratty teenage boys were developing a fascination with the increasingly disposable culture of the late '70s that bordered on obsessive-compulsive. Their names were Steve (future bassist) and Jeff (singer) and long before either of them got close to graduating from high school they'd already formed their first band, The Tourists, with classmates Greg Hetson and Ron Reyes. It was just a preview of coming attractions: obnoxious, incredibly sloppy, melodic punk that reveled in the irrelevance and low comedy of pop culture.

In 1980 the band became Red Cross and released its first EP, before Hetson and Reyes departed for seminal L.A. punk outfits the Circle Jerks and Black Flag. The brothers McDonald subsequently employed L.A. session museums to record their essential Born Innocent (1981), an apotheosis of their dual fixations with tabloid culture and messy garage rock, which featured lowbrow anthems honoring such dubious icons as Linda Blair, Patti Hearst, and Charles Manson, even featuring an unlisted cover of the last's "Cease to Exist." Soon after the group altered the spelling of their name to Redd Kross, thanks to the remonstrations and threatened litigation of a certain international charitable foundation. In 1984, the McDonalds scored and starred in the Grade Z punk-rock schlockfest Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (the source of the featured "Ballad of a Lovedoll").

And so Redd Kross's career has stumbled along over the decade and a half since. Robert Hecker eventually became the band's permanent guitarist and Roy McDonald (not a third brother) the permanent drummer. Their goofy songs, which musically fall somewhere between the Ramones, Cheap Trick, and Kiss and lyrically continue to somehow find the joy in the banal, never cease to be catchy and endearing. Over the course of a half-dozen LPs and other releases, not to mention a few more film appearances, Redd Kross have become true underground rock heroes.