Wednesday 9 March 2022

Love/Hate - Hell, CA (2022)

Country: USA
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 11 Feb 2022
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I was never a big fan of Love/Hate's breakout hit, Why Do You Think They Call It Dope, but I adored the album it was on, Blackout in the Red Room, and especially its title track, which had a fantastic hook over a sleazy attitude. That album ended with a song called Hell CA, Pop 4 and Jizzy Pearl may still be living there on this new album, the band's seventh and first of new material since the previous millennium, as 2017's Before the Blackout was a collection of early demos and the EP planned for 2013 saw release under Jizzy Pearl's name for legal reasons. He's the only member left now from the classic era.

And, as surprising as it may seem in 2022, over thirty years after Love/Hate's debut and the death of the glam metal era, two unrelated events but ones that arrived only a year apart, this is sleazy heaven. One Hot Minute is so sleazy that it goes beyond that debut and the only comparison I can give is to the original mix of Mötley Crüe's Too Fast for Love. It's a real peach of an opener and an unmistakable statement of intent, so thoroughly drenched in crap beer and a whole smörgåsbord of bodily fluids that we can't help but feel transported to 1981 Los Angeles.

I love this sound, which is utterly no nonsense. It's actually well produced, but it's trying not to be. The goal is clearly to sound like they're on stage in a tiny LA club with sweat dripping off the walls and the production manages that. In fact, they even tease us with it. Gonna Take You Higher kicks off like a Poison-esque ballad, reeking of hairspray and MTV ambition, but then it winks at us and snaps into high gear, like it knows full what plays on MTV nowadays and doesn't care. It's happier in some biker bar in Hell, CA, population hopefully more than 4.

Jizzy Pearl is the only name in the line-up that I recognise and he's totally recognisable, given his bluesier take on early Vince Neil. He's a better singer and his voice is pitched lower, but he does a lot of the same things in the holy name of sleaze. He's also gloriously unpolished here, as if these songs were written on the way into the studio and they only did one take of each. That's not going to be the case, because I'm sure much of it is calculated and rehearsed and finessed, but he clearly had a lot of fun hiding that.

The other name I'd call out for mention here is guitarist Stevie Pearce. He doesn't do anything on this album that hasn't been done in glam metal before, but he nails it, whether he's delivering an overly simple but highly effective riff, wailing in the background or blistering through a solo. He's everywhere, so much so that there has to be a second guitarist here, though I'm not locating any references to one. Maybe he just recorded his rhythm duties separately to his leads, underlining a clever production job that sounds looser than it must have been. Certainly, Lonely Days are Gone, the album's closer, feels more produced, ironically given how raw Wanna Be Somebody is only one song earlier.

What's telling to me is that makes that closer my least favourite track, even though it does blister gloriously at points and wraps up with manic intent. Also telling is that it's hard to pick favourites because there are so many candidates. I could stick with One Hot Minute and Acid Babe, the songs that open the album, but I can't ignore the southern-tinged depth of When You Gonna Come Home. I like Bruised and Battered a lot too, which is mostly Guns n' Roses but with a strange tinge of U2 that isn't the negative it might sound like. If we want to talk negative, I'd go with that minimalist cover art, but it's annoyingly appropriate, because it's as stripped down as the music.

Welcome back, Love/Hate. I hadn't realised how much I'd missed you.

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