I can’t stress enough how awesome life was for a metalhead from 1986-1991. Most of the bands we listened to put out just a string of stellar albums one after the next, especially in the summertime. For me, the summers of ’88, ’89, and ’90 gave us some of the finest records these bands had to offer. But in among the established veterans, on a hot day in June, my pal Steve brought over a CD, the debut album Blackout in the Red Room by this upstart band called LOVE/HATE. Now for those of you who’ve never heard it, this thing had all of us, EVERY one of us in my crew saying, “Holy shit! Where the hell did this band come from?” Los Angeles, apparently. And while they arrived at the tail end of the scene, the impact of this record is undeniable.
From the opening riff of “Blackout in the Red Room” it’s obvious what these guys were all about: Big, ballsy, rock and roll! Jizzy Pearl’s voice was like nothing we had ever heard before, all rasp and screech, bleeding the world-weary and fucked up rockstar vibe into everything he sang, and guitarist Jon E. Love was simply a machine spitting out riff upon riff upon riff. The rhythm section of Skid Rose on bass and Joey Gold on drums pounded the shit out of their instruments and at times you couldn’t tell who hit harder. “Rock Queen” is next and for 2:21 it is all over the place, asses and elbows flying about. This brings us into the cascading rhythms of “Tumbleweed” that rest on top of one another like the levels of a champagne fountain.
“Why Do You Think They Call It Dope?” featuring Skid wrecking shop on the bass in jaw-dropping fashion is undeniably the best song on this record as well as LOVE/HATE’S career and its success on MTV helped them win over the notoriously fickle AC/DC crowds on tour. When I saw them in November of 1990 everyone around me was as into them as I was and the energy was downright combustible. Totally made my very first drive at 17 to suckass New Jersey worth it! Hell, we played this album in my ’79 Horizon all the way to the Meadowlands, conveniently forgetting to play any of the headliner’s stuff…oops! The slow, deliberate, whiskey-soaked pacing of “Fuel to Run” showcases yet another side of this band’s musical abilities. Each member was a master at what he did, and when they came together it was nothing short of magic.
My other runaway favorite is of course “One More Round”, another one featuring damn-near virtuoso performances, most notably from Gold whose off-beats merged with tribal rhythms cradle and hold the song in place. The final 1:13 is a whirlwind of activity, over which Jizzy lets fly with some wails and moans that accent everything Gold is playing perfectly. ”She’s An Angel” is next and is one of those rare tunes that sounds just as good acoustic as it does plugged in, and is one of the darker songs on a record mostly devoted to drinking, partying, and fucking, all the things that make life worth living. For “Mary Jane” (guess what THIS one’s about!) Love comes up with a hypnotic guitar line not unlike the tendrils of smoke that rise from the tops of incense candles. And for “Straitjacket” the band employs more of a pissed-off punk sound which probably scared some people back then due to how saccharine a lot of the songs were at the time.
If you take the kind of dirty, meaty, gritty tone that bands like L.A. GUNS and MOTLEY CRUE either couldn’t or were too scared to try for then you get “Slutsy Tipsy”, the bastard demon child born of the DNA from the Sunset Strip. And “Slave Girl” was its wicked stepsister, no question. That deliciously evil vocal harmony over a sexy guitar line is pure dirty gold, and even has a hint of THE CULT in it. Closer “”Hell, Ca., Pop.4″ is the perfect summation of the music and attitude of LOVE/HATE. These guys simply did not give a fuck and that very likely worked against them despite landing high-profile tours in ’90 and ’91. Too edgy for what had become a sugary sweet and safe musical landscape, they were over before they really began. Subsequent albums just couldn’t capture the same magic, but for one summer in 1990, Blackout in the Red Room was just as good, if not better than anything the established bands were putting out. This album was the backdrop for heavy boozing and hardcore fucking, something all of us were doing back then, especially at 17, right? No? Just me? If you’re my age and you’re saying “no” you’re a liar. You forget, I knew some of you “good girls” reading this right now when you WERE that age, ok? Just be happy the walls of the old Massapequa house can’t talk. ~dc