It’s almost hard to believe The Pretty Reckless have been around for over a decade now. The band, fronted by actress Taylor Momsen, had their first massive single (“Heaven Knows”) in 2013 and was poised to take the rock world by storm. In 2017, they had lined up their biggest tour yet, opening for Soundgarden. The events that led to the tragic loss of Chris Cornell left an impact on the band that made them step back and put touring to promote their newest album on hold. A few months later, tragedy struck close to home again when the band’s longtime friend and producer was taken too soon in a motorcycle accident. Death By Rock And Roll is forged from these events and is full of raw emotion that takes the album to the next level.
The album kicks off with the titlular track “Death By Rock And Roll” and features huge, heavy riffs in between moments of Momsen singing over just a backdrop of drums. The song closes with an eerie, almost hollow reciting of the focal line, “on my tombstone when I go, just put death by rock and roll,” over nothing but feedback. The feel switches up for the next track, “Only Love Can Save Me Now.” The introduction kicks off with a heavy groove and highlights Momsen’s lower range. The chorus has a slow but heavy feel that moves along and has a catchy appeal to it, featuring impressive harmonies. The guitar work in the solo is fantastic and is one of my favorites on the album.
“And So It Went” is easily my favorite track on the album. It has an aggressive, heavy riff with an upbeat tempo that starts the track on a solid note. The vocals get intense and show off the grittier side of Momsen’s range. The guitars drop out in the first chorus and only play a background role in the second, progressively getting heavier throughout, adding an extra layer to the build. The last run of the chorus has a group chant before ending the final stanza in a wall of sound. The breakdown has an airy acoustic guitar over crystal clean vocals before exploding back into the intense riff and a face-melting solo from guitar legend Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, Prophets of Rage). “25” showcases Momsen’s vocals in a big way. The song is more stripped down than the first few tracks, is slower and more methodical. Her range is on full display from low to high, clean to gritty. There’s an interesting play on counting to get to 25 and the vocal harmonies stripped back bridge are a nice touch. This song really shows how musically sound the entire band is, using a lot different styles and approaches to create their music.
“My Bones” possesses a different feel, moving back and forth from laid back to aggressive and heavy, clean vocals to heavy and everything in between. The contrast here truly highlights the band’s diverse sound. “Got So High” is mostly acoustic with strong 70s vibes. Momsen’s vocals stand out on this less-busy track, it’s catchy and a lot of fun. “Broomsticks” is a perfectly placed interlude that I can see being played over the speakers as a transition or introduction at a live show. The little ditty transitions right into “Witches Burn,” displaying a unique blend of jazz and classic rock vibes. The chorus is larger-than-life and features drawn out, held-high notes. “Standing at the Wall” is another palate cleansing acoustic ballad with a nice build that leads to a bridge that shows off Momsen’s fantastic high range. It’s a rare talent to be able to sing ballads with a clean vocal so powerfully and also be able to pull off the gritty, intense, heavy vocals.
“Turning Gold” uses a capella vocals with a slow build behind. The guitar joins for long held out notes in the second half of the first verse until the full band enters. It’s catchy and has a lot of potential to be a massive single. At any rate, it will be another one that is a lot of fun for a live show, when we are finally able to return to venues! “Rock and Roll Heaven” is another big track with a chorus that reminds me of a big, 80s hair metal anthem (in the best of ways). It definitely has a throwback vibe and is a powerful, emotional track. The album closes out with “Harley Darling,” another acoustic-featured, stripped down track. Honestly, in another stylistic change, it almost gives me the feeling of the Eagles or Tom Petty. It’s a mellow song with emotional appeal and another with lyrics fueled by loss. The vocals are often blended in a subtle harmony and the guitar solo is simple yet soulful. The melancholy harmonica in the intro and the sound of a motorcycle add such a raw, emotional level to the track.
The Pretty Reckless are back, and out of their personal tragedy have offered an absolute masterpiece. The vocals are powerful and engaging, the lyrics are raw and powerful, and the band shows a great deal of restraint on the stripped down tracks while showing off in a masterclass of technical ability on the heavy riffs. Add a gripping guest appearance from Morello and some well-placed effects that will bring the stage show to life and you have an album poised to take the band to the next level. Check out Death By Rock And Roll via Fearless Records on February 12, 2021!