It's extremely difficult to listen to the brief pop blast of "This Is Not a Rebellion" and not marvel at what could have become of Redd Kross. Though the band is officially "on hiatus," it's clear that it's been relegated to archival status, with the reissue of "Neurotica" and an upcoming two-disc anthology to seal the legacy. With that historical burden lifted, the McDonald brothers have been able to explore other outlets and together -- with Steven's wife Anna Waronker and Jeff's 7-year-old daughter, Astrid -- they goof around as Ze Malibu Kids, an absurdist romp through "Americana." Yet blissfully catchy pop has always been their prime forte, and out from under his brother's reputation as Redd Kross' primary architect, Steven proves that if the two were to again work on a straight-ahead rock & roll project, it would be truly impressive. With only five songs to make a judgment (SMG has been together for just shy of a year, so they can be forgiven for being less than prolific), it's still clear that Steven's got the juice to make AM-influenced pop rock like nobody's business. Yeah, it's mining the same basic territory as Redd Kross -- wide-eyed harmonies, riff-conscious rockin' and melodies out the wazoo -- but the Steven McDonald group doesn't seem burdened by the same weight of pop-culture irony that ultimately undid Redd Kross. It's cheeky (I mean, just look at the title), but the five songs here are considerably more swinging and straightforward than anything Redd Kross ever did. No, it's not groundbreaking or even the slightest bit challenging, but that's all right. After all, revolution needs to be sweet.
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