CD reviews we couldn’t fit into Saturday’s paper — Redd Kross’ “Researching the Blues” and various artists, “122 BPM: The Birth of House Music”
Because I know and understand the immediate future (in this case only):
“Researching the Blues” (Merge)
It’s odd to think of Los Angeles punk band Redd Kross as a legacy act, considering its bassist Steven McDonald learned his instrument at age 11, shortly before he and older brother Jeff, 15, opened for Black Flag in the early ‘80s. But over three decades later, here they are, delivering the kind of fuzzed-out melodies and explosive girl-group harmonies that at their 1980s prime propelled them to near-stardom.
Had the brothers not made the crucial, and, in hindsight, career-destroying decision to commit to Atlantic Records in the post-Nirvana signing frenzy, Redd Kross might have been huge. Their new album, “Researching the Blues,” offers ample evidence that it’s not too late. The record features 10 urgent, insistent rock ‘n’ roll gems, and only occasionally reveals any hint of the musical crow’s-feet or outdated outfits of rock ‘n’ roll elder statesmen.
As on their classic work, “Researching the Blues” focuses on melodies and harmonies. The infectious hand-clap-and-maraca driven “One of the Good Ones” features a primal Bo Diddley rhythm that makes it feel eternal. And “Stay Away From Downtown” is as furious a rock song as anything coming out of the fledgling hard-core punk revival – and might prompt those Angelenos headed east on Sunset toward Chinatown to think twice.
— Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times
“122 BPM: The Birth of House Music” (Still Records)
This compilation and album-length mixtape from Still Music’s Jerome Derradji tells of the invention of a new dance music template – one forged in the Chicago black middle class by kids influenced by the ‘80s New Wave movement. “122 BPM: The Birth of House Music” is compiled from the vaults of Mitchbal and Chicago Connection records (a father-and-son label combo at the center of the genre’s birth and inspired by Berry Gordy), a three-CD set that is both an expertly curated historical document and a total party record.
Derradji’s well-paced album mix best approximates the feel of the era’s house clubs, but the individual tracks show the seeds of a sound to come. The sweet pianos and soul vocals of Mitchbal & the Housemaster’s “When I Hear the Music”; the lascivious city-noir of Z Factor’s “(I Like to Do It in) Fast Cars” – all these things are in the DNA of nearly every track on top-40 and dance festivals around the world. It proves that house music is specific and nuanced, but also, that house music is everything today.
— August Brown, Los Angeles Times