Back in the late eighties hard rock was fast disappearing up its own rectum; the proliferation of hair metal bands had reached epidemic proportions and each and every one of them was following the same formula of massive choruses, massive heels and at least one massive power ballad. Quality hard rock was hard to come by, except, of course, in the form of Guns n Roses, who totally dominated the HR/HM scene, and to a lesser extent Skid Row, who were somewhat unfairly lumped in with the sunset strip wannabes, when in fact they were substantially heavier and had a lot more going on in the songwriting department, especially on ‘Slave To The Grind’. Anyway, in the midst of all this a band that had been struggling to be heard and get a record deal finally got signed and delivered a quality slice of hard rocking, Jack soaked tunes with barely an eye liner in sight.
In simple terms ‘Blackout In The Red Room’ rocks, and hard. The refreshing thing about the album was that it wasn’t just copying GnR, it wasn’t just following the formula of all the hair bands and although there are a few clichés, it wasn’t all high hats, cow bells and radio friendly harmonies. Instead, what you get is a bunch of dirty sounding riffs, abrasive vocals and some coolly arranged tracks largely about getting wasted. Oh yeah, and no power ballad.
The title track sets the pace with a mid tempo swagger and some serious groove; it may be a true headbanger, but in rock clubs it was a surefire floor filler. ‘Rock Queen’ is a stylish second track featuring a stack of hooks and the wonderfully bizarre line of “Let me touch your cookies/Let me eat your cookies”!
The album continues in a flurry of hard riffs and well worked tunes, with highlights like ‘Fuel to Run’ and ‘Tumbleweed, which are good hard rockers and the frantic old school finale ‘Hell, Ca., Pop.4’. Although ‘She’s an Angel’ borrows heavily from the book of hard rock clichés for its more serious tone, it is as quality a slice of metal lite as you’re likely to hear.
Ok, so one track or another doesn’t exactly set the world on fire, i.e ‘Slutsy Tipsy’ and ‘Slave Girl’, but in general the standard is high. For example, the ode to weed that is ‘Mary Jane’ is a nicely arranged number with some cool twists to the tempo and more great guitar work. The standout track though, is the song which got heavy rotation on MTV, ‘Why Do You Think They Call It Dope, a killer tune with a great hook and some funky assed bass.
On the whole ‘Blackout…’ stands up as a damn good record that was a cut above a lot of what was coming out of sunset strip at the time. They may not have been PC or had the general appeal of a GnR or a Skid Row, but there was some serious talent in the band and some hard rocking bangers on this record. If dirty riffs, blazing solos and raspy vocals are your thing, it’s well worth revisiting.