Album: The Pretty Reckless - Death By Rock And Roll
By Russ Coffey for The Arts Desk
Four albums in and The Pretty Reckless singer, Taylor Momsen, still feels the need to explain herself to her doubters. In a recent interview, the former actress reiterated that quitting the TV show Gossip Girl, a decade ago, was her best decision ever. Music has always been her real passion, she said, and now it's become her saviour.
Momsen's recent emotional struggles are laid bare on Death By Rock And Roll. The album's tracks are shot through with tragedy and grief. Two deaths, in particular, underpin the LP: Firstly, the suicide of friend-of-the-band Chris Cornell. More devastating still was the passing of the band's former producer Kato Khandwala, whose motorcycle accident forms the subject of the exhilarating and defiant title track.
In a way, the whole album feels like a tribute to Khandwala. It's not just the lyrics ("Harley Darling" is another eulogy), but also how the band stays true to their old producer's recipe of classic metal mixed with grunge, with a dollop of country-rock on top.
This eclectic mix of styles may not always make for the most coherent listen, but there sure are some rip-roaring tracks: "25" is a soaring power ballad that consciously evokes Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name". "Got So High", another slow number, has a softer, acid-laced, country chill-out feel. At the opposite end of the spectrum, "And So it Went" (feat. Tom Morello), is dark, thick, sludgy, and very loud.
Even the album's fillers are not entirely devoid of charm. Momsen injects some bad girl charisma into the meat-and-spuds metal of "My Bones". And the nondescript, Southern rock twang of "Turning Gold," is (partially) redeemed by the grit and power of her voice.
Of course, The Pretty Reckless like to say they're a band and not just a vehicle for their singer. Really though it's Momsen's persona that dominates. The other three may be fine instrumentalists, but there's nothing strikingly original about the band's music. It's Momsen's attitude, vocals and image that provide the X factor and on Death By Rock And Roll she's as bewitching as ever.