The Pretty Reckless is:
Taylor Momsen – vocals, rhythm guitar
Ben Phillips – guitar
Mark Damon – bass
Jamie Perkins – drums
The Pretty Reckless – Going to Hell
1. Follow Me Down
2. Going to Hell
3. Heaven Knows
4. House on a Hill
5. Sweet Things
6. Dear Sister
8. Blame Me
10. Why'd You Bring a Shotgun to the Party
11. Fucked Up World
12. Waiting for a Friend
Running time: 45:16
It should come as no surprise that the opening moments of Going to Hell feature the pleasured moans of what is unmistakeably a sexual act. When I saw The Pretty Reckless live at Download Festival in 2011, lead singer and former Gossip Girl star Taylor Momsen made absolutely sure that her breasts were on display as often as possible. This wasn't something that occurred infrequently at the Pretty Reckless concerts. Regularly, Momsen would bring female fans up on stage to dance provocatively with. She'd regularly be photographed wearing attire that left little to the imagination. Momsen was determined to shed the “good girl” image that had resulted from her television career, and she did that in some style. Fast forward four years from the band's debut record Light Me Up, and there are still shock value tactics on display. Aside from the opening erotic pleasures, the album's art work features Momsen sat naked with her back to us, with a large cross painted on her back forming an arrow that points right to the girl's ass. Subtlety has never been Miss Momsen's strong suit. Of course, the most shocking aspect of this record is it's quality.
Album opener “Follow Me Down” features with the sex noises previously mentioned, which segues into a siren somewhere in the back which in turn segues into a crunchy, blues rock riff. “Since I met you I've been crazy,” cries Momsen in the record's opening lyric. Immediately the themes of the record become clear – we're talking about love, lust, sin, and all the wonderful things that come with it. The song features numerous changes of tempo, as Momsen tantalises us prior to each chorus where she then embraces her sexuality with lines like “follow me down to the river... I'll be down here on my knees.” Like I said, it's nothing subtle, but it is infectious and a bouncy opening track. “Don't bless me father, for I have sinned,” whispers Momsen on the title track. Momsen confesses her sins in the form of riveting riffs and a barked chorus. Momsen is unrelenting here, with no regrets. The track wears its blues influences on its sleeve once again and threatens to break out into some slick guitar solos every now and then from Ben Phillips' axe, but the track never quite erupts the way you expect it to. “Heaven Knows” opens with a gritty baseline and a school bell. There's hand claps aplenty and gang vocals are a prominent fixture. It's a wonderfully morbid song, especially as it pertains to the world's youth, but it's uncaringly menacing. Momsen's vocal features less of a snarl here and it makes for a pleasant change. She shows some vocal chops throughout this record, and this song is a highlight without doubt – the chorus is mammoth.
“House on a Hill” is an eerie number, opening with static and a spoken word sample. Momsen once again takes a more delicate and understated approach to the vocal work on this acoustically driven ballad. The track frequently erupts into something all the more powerful, like sharp rays of the sun breaking through the clouds. The deliberate drum work of Jamie Perkins keeps the track plodding along at a suitable pace like rolling thunder. “Sweet Things” cranks the tempo and ferocity up by more than a few notches as Taylor Momsen's trademark snarl returns to the forefront of he record - “I'm Evil, knocking at your door / I'm Evil, making you my whore,” sings Momsen throughout the track. We later get a male vocal we can assume to be the Devil who Momsen later embraces. The track is frantic in it's instrumentation and features a blistering solo, but impressively it forces you to listen to every word as well. This is some of the finest hard rock I've heard all year. Amazingly, Momsen throws in another curveball with “Dear Sister,” and interlude that runs at less than a minute and features nothing but a stripped back guitar and vocal. It's another example of the band showcasing their bluesy influences, but it's the first real example of Momsen showing something resembling vulnerability and it's completely refreshing.
The band's many influences are on show again in “Absolution,” a track that treads a fine line between hard rock and country music with its opening guitar salvo. Phillips' guitar work is particularly good here. The song just plods along at a steady pace before Momsen launches into another vocal that makes use of plenty more religious imagery, one of the more frequent lyrical themes of the record. It doesn't quite pack the same punch as previous tracks, but it's another solid effort. “Blame Me” juxtaposes the album's previous themes as Momsen begins to show regret and remorse for her sins. It's one of the slower tracks on the record and by no coincidence, features one of the better vocal efforts. It's the closest thing to a radio friendly straightforward rock song you'll find on this record. “Burn” is another more melancholy number, another quasi-interlude that lets an acoustic guitar and Momsen's velvety tones do all the work. It's another one all about regret and self-doubt, and another standout from the record.
The album heads towards its conclusion by cranking things right back up to 11. “Why'd You Bring a Shotgun to the Party” is a venomous and sleazy number that features the sound of guns cocking. It's a statement about today's youth, yet again, and their behaviours. But more importantly, it's a cracking tune with another dirty great big riff permeating the listener's subconscious throughout. The shouted vocals of the chorus make for a raucous affair, and the track builds to a satisfactory conclusion. “Fucked Up World” continues the damnation of the world we live in, with Momsen once again frequently referencing sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll but this time she doesn't seem to be celebrating such things nor embracing them – it's more a statement about how we got to such a point. “Fucked Up World” is one of the least memorable tracks of the record but does feature a sultry breakdown at the mid-way stage. Album-closer “Waiting for a Friend” changes the pace once again, dropping the tempo right down and letting Momsen deliver a vocal accompanied by an acoustic guitar and a harmonica. It's actually a fitting way to conclude the record, even if it's not the most well-executed ballad you'll ever hear. What it does accomplish is that it makes you reflect on the album you've just heard, because the closing track was as much of a pleasant surprise as Going to Hell as a whole was.
The Pretty Reckless - “Going to Hell”
The 411: The Pretty Reckless' second album is one that you may have to forget everything you think you know about this band before you can truly appreciated it. Yes, there's things here that provide little but shock value – the opening twenty seconds, the album cover, certain lyrics. But if you're able to get past that, and you should, there's a really good hard rock record here that is confident about its themes of sin, love and regret and delivers a number of well-written and even more impressively executed rock songs. There's a plethora of influences on show, and Taylor Momsen provides vocal performances we didn't really know she was capable of. It's not a record that has reinvented the wheel or broken any new ground, but there are much worse ways to spend forty-five minutes than getting down and dirty with Taylor Momsen and joining her in hell.