Photo Credit: Andrew Lipovsky
After a somewhat disappointing third album, The Pretty Reckless returns with Death By Rock and Roll, an album that tiptoes the line between composure and going off the rails. The band had a pretty rough go of it, after experiencing tragic loss with the death of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell as The Pretty Reckless supported them on tour. Not long after, longtime producer Kato Khandwala passed away after being involved in a motorcycle incident. Lead singer Taylor Momsen takes listeners through her recovery process, and the depression and substance abuse that accompanied it.
As Momsen began to recover, she found solace in music and creating. Death By Rock and Roll allowed Momsen to express herself as she pulled herself out of the dark hole she had fallen into. Opening with guitars that produce an “in your face” quality, the title track sets the tone for what’s to come by producing a loud, anthemic song about the battle for your life. Other album highlights include “Witches Burn”, “And So It Went” and “25.”
In an album released after such a transformative and monumental time, it’s almost expected that the lyrics dig a little deeper into mortality and healing. Momsen doesn’t fully achieve this through words alone. Even though the actual lyrics may not have the cleverness that other artists have achieved, her performance is more genuine and any listener can tell she put her heart and soul into the recording of this album. The acoustic “Standing At the Wall” is the best representation of this, as Momsen sings the last line of the chorus: “All alone there’s no one to catch me when I fall.”
The balance between instrumentals and vocals is expertly produced, with Momsen stealing the show with her gritty vocals and growls. Each guitar riff and drumline is tightly composed but reveals cracks of the restlessness that lays underneath, which drives the album forward. While the cohesiveness is one of the strongest points on the record, the experimentation into country rock on the last two tracks actually pays off. Country twangs on “Rock and Roll Heaven” and the harmonica opening on “Harley Darling” add a lighter tone to an overall heavy piece.
These last two songs provide closure and allows the album to end on a hopeful note. “Harley Darling” in particular touches on the bittersweetness of losing Khandwala, showing sadness that he is gone while expressing gratitude that he is in a better place. The Pretty Reckless have outdone themselves on Death By Rock and Roll. Listeners will be sure to have their heads banging along to the edgy sound of the album while still being able to take away the emotional depth that Momsen provides.