This special 40th anniversary edition of the Red Cross EP, which includes the band’s six-song eponymous debut and adds five contemporaneous extra tracks, is the most comprehensive document to date of the extraordinary birth of Redd Kross.
Redd Kross incubated alongside such SoCal luminaries as Black Flag, Descendents, and the Minutemen, and this new 11-song collection—which includes rare and unreleased demos plus a live track recorded in 1979 at “The Church,” the infamous Black Flag birthplace in Hermosa Beach, CA—puts in proper perspective the McDonald brothers’ contribution, at the ridiculously precocious ages of 12 and 16, to that area’s punk scene.
Our take: Merge Records takes Redd Kross’s debut EP (from back when they were called Red Cross) and brings it back into print, beefing up the package with some excellent bonus material. I have a lot of friends who view the Red Cross EP as total godhead punk, and while I love it, it’s never gotten its teeth in me as deep as it should, probably because I’ve never been able to track down an original copy. Revisiting it now, though, it’s fucking great. I mean, “Cover Band?” “Clorox Girls?” “Standing in Front of Poseur?” These are bona fide punk classics, exactly the catchy, song-oriented west coast punk I adore. While Red Cross’s name was an obvious nod to Black Flag, these songs sound less like Flag and more like Dangerhouse / Masque-era LA punk or the more melodic sounds of the Simpletones or the Cheifs. As for this reissue, the a-side presents the original EP, while the b-side collects a bunch of demo tracks. While the demos date to a few months before the proper EP, the sound is clearer and beefier and I could see how some people would prefer these versions. There’s also a live track by pre-Red Cross band the Tourists that’s well worth hearing. It’s crazy that, even though they were so young when they recorded this EP, there’s still a pre-Red Cross band to dig in to. As you would expect from Merge, the sound, the design, and the presentation are all on point. If, like me, you’ve never laid your hands on an original, this is an essential grip.