More than thirty years ago, the band formerly known as Red Cross were a snotty crop of boys, halfway between the Damned and what is now a stereotype of Southern California punk, bearing a sound that reeked of teenage entitlement while at once beachy, confident, and rude. Naturally, they'd gradually evolve into a watered down version of this perfect punk rock, and yes, they had company in their evolution (guitarist Greg Hetson would eventually join Bad Religion, which, of course, went through the exact same phases).
And this is a fair process—who wants to hear a couple of late 40-somethings yell, “Kill someone (that you hate)/for a feeling (that is great)?” Lines worth a snicker and a chuckle, coming from a 20-year old, would seem a sad attempt at reviving rebellious glory days from the mouth of a man twice as old. That said, while interviews prove that the band still have a great sense of humor, their music's been forced to get with the times.
So, they've gradually grown pop, and they've solidified the ties to establish this—Jeff and Steve McDonald are respectively married to Charlotte Caffey and Anna Waronker, and Roy McDonald played drums for the ambiguously still-active Muffs. It should be no surprise, then, that Researching the Blues essentially plays like a soundtrack licensed to one giant commercial. There are harmonies, and cheesy guitar solos that hark back to late '90s/early '00s Bad Religion (yes, off we go). Singer Jeff McDonald sounds a bit strained now, but only a bit, and as they now are, the band is, overall, relaxed and happy, capable of nothing more than shiny power pop.
Having not recorded in some time, it makes perfect sense that this record seems to pick up where the band last left off, but when the band left off, their original genre had been reduced to frivolous pop punk, intended mostly to sell skate shoes to 15-year-olds. If it evokes anything at all, this record's got me pining for a pair of two-tone Vans Old Skools. [Merge]
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