“I’m free to exercise my downward mobility” - Fuel to Run
It is my contention that Jizzy Pearl created Kurt Cobain. While that was arguably good news for rock music in general, it didn’t turn out so great for Jizzy or for Kurt. Here’s what happened. The golden rule of rock n’ roll is the same as comedy: if it bends, it’s funny. If it breaks, not funny. By 1990, we endured a good seven years of really tremendous bullshit in the rock world. Flash metal did give us some solid jams, don’t get me wrong. Appetite for Destruction has got to be on anybody’s list of the top 5 rock records of all time. The first two Motley records are untouchable. Early on, we had Hanoi Rocks and Smack. The sleaze/biker metal wing of the movement was stellar. Whitesnake really brought it during that era. And there were a ton of pop-metal gems, from Ratt to TKO.
But for the most part, it was a lot of Midwestern goofballs puffing up their hair, prancing around in pirate shirts, and calling themselves things like Rikki Rockett, Vik Foxx, Taime Downe and S St. Lust. You can only take so much of that before you’re ready to move on. Love/Hate’s debut album came out in 1990. It had a song on it called Slutsy Tipsy. Their singer called himself Jizzy Pearl. If we went along with that, we’d be looking at another decade of dudes writing songs about getting blowjobs from teenagers. We just couldn’t allow it. The culture recoiled and searched desperately for the exact opposite of Jizzy Pearl and Blackout in the Red Room, and found it in mopey Kurt Cobain and the the bummed-out slacker-grunge of Nevermind.
And with the exception of maybe Motley Crue and Skid Row, the entirety of the flash metal movement went down in flames, pretty much overnight. Jizzy fuckin’ Pearl broke rock n’ roll, man. And that’s kind of shame, because Blackout in the Red Room, I mean, wow. In some ways, it’s one of the best records of the era. In others, well…it’s most obvious flaw is that it’s really fucking creepy. Blackout’s signature song is the otherwise storming hard rocker Rock Queen. The riffs are blazing, Jizzy’s AC/DC-esque ground-glass growls are on the money, and the hooks punch you square in the jaw. You really wanna sing along to this one, until you listen to the lyrics: “Rock queen, thirteen, buxom blonde, bad dream/let me touch your cookies/let me eat your cookies/Now!”
I mean, Jesus. It’s date-rape-y enough without throwing the ‘thirteen’ in there. Straightjacket is a really fucking weird song, too. It opens with “Gonna get a little laid” and ends with “I think I might murder somebody, yeah yeah!” Slave Girl is about a woman forced into gang bangs for dough, which Jiz is ok with: “I know she’s wrong, but I’m a bad guy, too.” Even the goddamn power-ballad, She’s An Angel is alarming: (“Mommy takes the strings of your bass/So you won’t hang yourself”).
Of course you could argue that this whole record is actually a scathing satire of the decadent culture it sprang from, or even a foaming, rage-fueled indictment of it. And maybe it is, but it sure sounds like LA party-metal to me, and these guys were always dancing around in tights and shit in their videos. And that’s the conundrum with Blackout. Whatever it is, nobody got it. Musically, it’s a rager, piles of searing sleaze-metal guitars, a commanding roar from Pearl, a strong ear for melody and hooks all over the place. Lyrically it sounds like the work of either a Schizophrenic sex offender, or a teenage weirdo mapping out his revenge schemes.
Either way, Blackout did hit the lower half of the Billboard charts and landed Love/Hate an ill-received slot on a Dio tour, but that’s about as good as it got. Despite the deafening indifference, Jizzy kept the band operating as a cult act for the next few years. In ‘92 Jizzy crucified himself on the Hollywood sign to promote their second record. Nobody noticed. He sold his car to finance the third one, but nobody bought it.
I imagine that at some point around this time he might have thought about dropping the “Jizzy” stuff and just go back to being good ‘ol James Wilkinson, but I gotta hand it to him, even if he did have a few dark nights of the soul back there, he never flinched. He’s still Jizzy. After the Love/Hate debacle, he started his second career, bailing out 80’s glam metal bands who hit the skids when their original lead singer either split or died. He’s done that gig for Ratt, LA Guns, and most recently, Quiet Riot. I’m not sure he’s done with Love/Hate, though. I’m not even sure we are. It could be entirely possible that Blackout In the Red Room is the one of the smartest, most insightful albums of the flash metal era, it’s just disguised as nihilistic, misogynist ape-rock. Time will tell. Hey, at least you got Smells Like Teen Spirit out of it, right?
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