REVIEW: The Pretty Reckless – Death By Rock And Roll

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I admit that the first time I listened to THE PRETTY RECKLESS was because of Taylor Momsen‘s role in the legendary teen drama TV-series “Gossip Girl.” I admit that for years I was fascinated by who caused that much drama in Upper East Side New York and it was a shock for me to see Momsen leaving the regular cast only to pursue a career in music. When I first heard her grungy voice in their debut album, “Light Me Up,” I knew that she had made the right decision, because just wow… what a voice! The American band is now ready to release their brand new studio effort, “Death By Rock and Roll,” released through Century Media Records on January 12th, 2021.

Now, a bit of backstory is necessary to give some more context to the album. In 2017, THE PRETTY RECKLESS got the opportunity to tour alongside SOUNDGARDEN. During the tour, Chris Cornell tragically passed away, resulting in not only a canceled tour but a pretty traumatic experience. Bad luck comes always in two so it seems, as 11 months later, the band lost their muse, friend, and longtime producer Kato Khandwala in a motorcycle accident. Music is excellent therapy, so weeks later Momsen and guitarist Ben Philips found themselves writing new music, resulting in “Death By Rock and Roll.”

The opener and title track, “Death By Rock and Roll” starts off with the sound of footsteps, which apparently belong to Khandwala. This track was released as the first single months ago and it instantly was one of the songs of 2020 that I played most. It’s an incredibly dark, heavy track that celebrates the life of someone devoted to rock ‘n’ roll. The band continues with “Only Love Can Save Me Now,” joining forces with Matt Cameron and Kim Thayil of SOUNDGARDEN; this track is one of the true highlights of the album and probably one of the grungiest tracks overall. THE PRETTY RECKLESS seem to celebrate the memory of Chris Cornell by inviting these guest musicians and that continues in yet another highlight of this album, “And So It Went,” which features the guitar wizardry of Tom Morello (RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, AUDIOSLAVE). This track is perhaps one of the grooviest tracks, with great guitar riffs and a powerful chorus that later on sees a childrens’ choir joining in for another round.

“25,” on the other hand, is a more introspective song that feels very personal to Taylor Momsen, as she wrote the song when she was 25. Starting off softly, the track grows with an intense power and I wouldn’t be surprised if plenty of people, like me, experienced chills by Momsen‘s vocal performance – it’s almost as if she’s piercing through your soul. “My Bones” is a bit more of a minimal track, focusing mostly on rhythms and Momsen‘s soulful voice, but erupts into a full-blown rock track with an excelling guitar solo.

From there on, the album takes a bit of a different turn. As songs progress, THE PRETTY RECKLESS sound lighter and more hopeful. “Got so High” is a mostly atmospheric track that sounds more positive, while “Broomsticks” is a short intermezzo that is loaded with a lot of soul. Continuing with “Witches Burn,” the four-piece continues this pattern: soulful grungy rock songs, lighter, but ultimately, still a dark track. “Standing At the Wall” has an acoustic guitar strumming with some strings in the background. I’m personally not the biggest fan of these kinds of mellow tracks, but in context with all the intense rock songs so far, this song does provide the listener a breather from all the darkness. Like a classic power ballad midway through, the song becomes stronger as it progresses, but still has an innocent simplicity that makes it a standout track.

“Turning Gold” and “Rock and Roll Heaven” are both fine rock anthems. The last three tracks have a little bit more of that American rock sound inspired by blues and country music. “Harley Darling” is another fine example of that, slightly reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen; this track is an endearing emotional song, written specifically for the loss of their friend Kato. Altogether it’s a fantastic end to a record that almost feels like a concept album about working through grief.

With a rollercoaster of emotions, “Death By Rock and Roll” is an outstanding record that proves once again that music is excellent therapy. The first half of the album is dark, which contrasts with the later part, which focuses more on hopeful, lighter, more mellow songs. What’s connecting these songs is Taylor Momsen‘s incredible vocal performance, which makes you believe every sentence she is singing is something she believes in. “Death By Rock and Roll” is probably one of the biggest hits of 2021 in rock music.

Tracklist

  1. Death By Rock And Roll
  2. Only Love Can Save Me Now
  3. And So It Went
  4. 25
  5. My Bones
  6. Got So High
  7. Broomsticks
  8. Witches Burn
  9. Standing at the wall
  10. Turning Gold
  11. Rock And Roll Heaven
  12. Harley Darling

Lineup

Taylor Momsen – vocals
Ben Philips – guitar
Jamie Perkins – drums
Mark Damon – bass

Label

Century Media Records

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