The Pretty Reckless, led by 17-year old singer-songwriter Taylor Momsen, revives grudge alternative in their debut album Light Me Up. The heartbeat of this album is raw, real and rough, proving that punk is anything but dead. The Pretty Reckless has resurrected the sexiness and seduction of punk rock.
Taylor Momsen, recently known for her role as Jenny on the CW’s Gossip Girl, was first an actress but claims that her love affair was really with music. In her youth she played Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas at age seven. Recognizing her relationship with rock as a life calling at a White Stripes concert, Momsen has spent the past eight years living as a musician who just happens to act.
Momsen first partnered with rock producer Kato Khandwala and Ben Phillips in 2008. The trio began writing songs seeking anything but a happy pop record. They wanted a record of unique rawness. The band is comprised of Momsen as the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Ben Phillips as the backing vocalist and lead guitarist, the bassist, Mark Damon, and the rogue drummer, Jamie Perkins.
Prior to listening, you might have thought that The Pretty Reckless was just another attempt at an actress to pop plunge, but you’d be wrong. This album is far from the stereotypical pop princess ballad. It’s deep. It’s dirty. It’s defiant.
The direction for the album began with the writing of “Make Me Wanna Die.” Probably the most well known song on the album, this romantic rager is hardcore and seductive passing through the full spectrum of teenage angst, from passionate obsession to paranoid insecurity. Additional romantically themed songs include the acoustically based “You” and “Nothing Left to Lose.” “You” is a fresh contribution to the album, predominately driven by the soft strings of the violin, while “Nothing Left to Lose” is a catchy soft romance between the acoustical guitar and Momsen’s smoky vocals.
Other notable songs on The Pretty Reckless’ debut album include their songs with a bluesy rock feel, “My Medicine” and “Since You’re Gone.” “My Medicine” begins with the flick of a lighter paired with a smooth exhale, later launching into a combination of thrashing guitars and jagged vocals. One song in particular highlights Momsen’s struggle between the worlds of Gossip Girl and The Pretty Reckless. It begins with a dazed melody about being overworked and later escalates into a chorus of scratchy fierceness.
Other hard and rebellious tunes include “Miss Nothing” and “Goin’ Down.” In “Miss Nothing,” the deep drum rage that explodes periodically throughout Momsen’s introspective growl is most exciting for the listener. The intense drum sequence of “Goin’ Down” placed adjacent to redeemer-themed lyrics creates another song that reaches into listener’s souls. Other tracks include “Light Me Up” and “Factory Girl.” The album does contain clear undertone influences of Kurt Cobain and Joan Jett, two of Momsen’s personal influences. Other band influences include The Beatles, Oasis and Nirvana.
It’s not an album that feels far-fetched. The central themes of love, death and relationships are all relatable. The Pretty Reckless takes what could’ve been another soon-to-be-forgotten pop album and instead produces an album of pensive-worthy emotion. The combination of Momsen’s dark vocals, Perkins’ heavy rhythmic melodies and an overall cohesion of rock creates a successful album.
Momsen has successfully landed in the atypical category of an actress that can actually rock. If ever given the chance, bring the girl with blinding peroxide blonde hair into your home to soothe your hankering for a revival of punk.