Love/Hate - Black Out In The Red Room album review

Commercial dud but critical fave of the hair-metal genus.

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Hair metal, by dint of its mainstream ubiquity, doesn’t have too many lost, underground classics, but this is one of them. Black Out In The Red Room, the 1990 debut album by LA’s Love/Hate, only reached Number 154 on the Billboard chart, managing to slip through the cracks in that brief moment between the music’s commercial heyday and the rise of grunge.

Although their two subsequent long-players – 1992’s Wasted In America and 1993’s Let’s Rumble – reached Numbers 20 and 24 respectively in the UK, in the States this is the one that earned the band their place in the pantheon alongside the extravagantly tonsured greats. It may have stalled in terms of sales, but in critical circles it remains highly revered: Rolling Stone voted it at 20 in a list of the 50 Greatest Hair Metal Albums Of All Time.

Several bands insist Spinal Tap are based on them. Love/Hate could reasonably assert that they based themselves on Spinal Tap. Their frontman was called Jizzy Pearl (OK, his real name was James Wilkinson), their guitarist was Jon E Love and their bassist and songwriter was Skid Rose (drummer Joey Gold has no such flash moniker). They weren’t garish enough to be glam metal but their every studio note was set to 11.

Musically, they were the squeal McCoy; Pearl’s voice was permanently set to screech while Love flitted between synapse-jangling riffs and solos in the upper reaches of the fretboard, a trebly state of affairs that producer Tom Werman (Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent) seemed only too happy to capture. Then again, they also had a fat bottom, thanks to Rose, perhaps why journalist Malcolm Dome contends in the sleevenotes of this reissue that Love/Hate had as much in common with Faith No More and Jane’s Addiction as they did Guns N’ Roses or Poison – this was hair metal you could funk to.

They were lyrically shrill, too, all alcohol anthems such as One More Round and Fuel To Run (with its shout-out to ‘Jim Beam, Courvoisier and Jack’), and paeans to minors from Rock Queen’s ‘Just 13/She’s a knock-down blue-eyed slut psycho-virgin tease’ to, well, the whole of Slutsy Tipsy and Slave Girl. They were so dodgy one suspects satirical intent. Indeed, that might be the safest – only – way to enjoy this unreconstructed racket in 2016.