Album Review: With Death By Rock And Roll, The Pretty Reckless Take It to a Whole New Level

The Pretty Reckless just dropped their latest album, Death By Rock and Roll, on Feb 12th.  This is their first album since 2016’s, Who You Selling For. The Pretty Reckless are Taylor Momsen (Vocals), Ben Phillips (Guitar), Jamie Perkins (drums), and Mark Damon (bass). Recording for the album began in late 2018 and continued for more than a year. The album was co-produced by Phillips, Momsen, and Jonathan Wyman.

“We lived this. Rock and roll means everything to us. Taylor sacrificed everything for this record. I think it shows.” – Ben Phillips

My main love is concert photography.  However, with the pandemic cancelling most of the concerts since the spring of 2020, I have focused my activities on writing more music articles.  This has caused me listen to a wider variety of musical genres and artists. A band I recently discovered was The Pretty Reckless. When the band’s latest album was announced in November, I jumped at the opportunity to review it. It took me over a week to write this review because there is so much going on with this album. Each song has it’s own story that could easily fill an entire review. This made it difficult to determine where to focus, so I tried to capture the overall mood supported by the lyrics and storylines combined with some background.

Certain life events like suffering the loss of a loved one can have a major impact on one’s psyche. Everyone has their own way of dealing with loss.  When I lost my father, I became distant and withdrawn.  I kept everything inside, with no way to express how I felt.  The Pretty Reckless suffered the loss of two friends, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and longtime producer Kato Khandwala.  Music was the bands way of dealing with these losses. “It sent us into a downward spiral” Phillips reflects, “We fell apart. It turned into a world of depression and substance abuse.  At that point, we had to try and figure out how to continue making music. It was either death or go forward.” Taylor exclaims “There was no way to hide from this. There was no running from what happened. I didn’t have to â€˜write’ it; it was just infused into what we’re doing”. 

Death By Rock and Roll is not a bright, uplifting album. It is an emotional, powerful album filled with reflection, despair, anger, and soul searching. Being a rock star comes with both blessings and curses.  There is a long history of rock stars who died way too early.  Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Marvin Gaye, John Lennon to name a few.  The deaths of Cornell and Khandwala influenced the mood and storylines of the songs. 

The title track “Death By Rock and Roll” is littered with death from various means including suicide, murder, and accidents. Talking about the song Momsen says “It’s not a morbid song. It’s, ‘I’m going to live my way; I’m going out my way’. That’s the rock and roll ethic. It’s empowering.” While it may no be morbid, it is on the darker side and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Momsen explores her own mortality on two songs. “25” was written as she was just turning twenty-five years of age.  It tracks her life’s progression year by year reflecting on key moments. These are years evolving from happiness to hope to despair.  Questioning whether she was going to survive. Her vocals are haunting, being both powerful and mesmerizing.  In “Rock and Roll Heaven”, she sings about an infamous milestone, the 27 Club.  In his song “Hey Hey, My My”, Neil Young wrote “it’s better to burn out than to fade away”. Countless musicians including Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27.  Momsen sings about living fast, hoping to make it to twenty-seven before she dies. 

The Beatles are one of Momsen’s biggest musical influences.  This could be heard throughout the album.  “Standing at the Wall” starts off as a slow acoustic song with occasional rhythms similar to the Beatles “No Reply”. During a brief interlude in “25” when she reaches her teen years, the tone brightens, and tempo increases with a McCartney like piano bit. Another influence on Momsen is Pink Floyd.  “And So It Went” is a hard driving anti-authority song. It features guitar work from Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, who was also member of Audioslave with Chris Cornell. A group of children from the Maine Academy of Modern Music were enlisted to sing alongside Momsen on the last two choruses. The chants from the child chorus were reminiscent of those from the Islington Green School choir who sang on Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”.  

This album is so strong from top to bottom that it is hard to single out one song as a favorite. However, the last track, “Harley Darling”, stands out the most to me.  This is not a song you would expect to hear from The Pretty Reckless.  It sounds like a 70’s country rock tune by a band like the Eagles. Momsen brings your eyes to the verge of tears with this touching tribute to her friend Kato Khandwala. Harley takes away a friend leaving her alone again which is referring to the motorcycle accident that took the life of Khandwala. 

Death By Rock And Roll may go down as the definitive Pretty Reckless album and is sure to become a classic.  The band dealt with tragedy and pain by creating a musical masterpiece filled with rock anthems and poignant ballads which featured powerful and hypnotic vocals by Momsen. The band took their songwriting to a whole new level. Speaking about the album she says “We stuck to our ethics,” she concludes. “We built this up over time. Either you throw it all away or go for it. It’s cliché, but rock and roll saved our lives.”  

It is only February, but Death By Rock And Roll by The Pretty Reckless is my early favorite for album of the year.  They have set the bar high for other bands and artists.  During an interview with People Magazine Taylor Momsen stated that The Beatles are her favorite band of all time. I’ll have to agree with her on this. However, after this album The Pretty Reckless have leaped toward the top of my favorite band list.   

Track List

  • Death By Rock And Roll
  • Only Love Can Save Me
  • And So It Went
  • 25
  • My Bones
  • Got So High
  • Broomsticks
  • Witches Burn
  • Standing At The Wall
  • Turning Gold
  • Rock And Roll Heaven
  • Harley Darling

Follow The Pretty Reckless Online: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Post by Scott Raymer (Website | Instagram | Facebook)

What do think about Death By Rock Rock and Roll? Comment below.





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The post Album Review: With Death By Rock And Roll, The Pretty Reckless Take It to a Whole New Level appeared first on Concert Crap.

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