Album Review: The Pretty Reckless, ‘Going to Hell’

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Let’s be blunt, most music performed by known Hollywood actors usually suck. It’s not a refined, poetic criticism, but it’s the truth. Steven Seagal, Russell Crowe, Don Johnson, Paris Hilton, Eddie Murphy and countless others have turned our stomachs with some of the worst music imaginable. So instinctively when we hear an actor or actress has a “band” we immediately lump them in with the the rancid pool of actors/musicians who have come before. We demonize their music before even giving it a first listen.

Yet, then there’s Taylor Momsen. The elegant, blonde actress who first stole our hearts as Cindy Lou Who in Jim Carrey’s How The Grinch That Stole Christmas and then broke them on Gossip Girl. For nearly five years, she’s fronting a rock band, The Pretty Reckless which has quietly become a legit touring favorite, and their most recent record, Going to Hell, debuted at #5 on the Billboard Charts. Could Momsen be the one who avoids the curse of the actor/musician?

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We’re going to say “hell” yes.

Going to Hell is a damn fine hard rock record. It employs the structure of a late 80s hard rock record — it’s got the slinky, dripping with sex rocker, it’s got the big, guitar-driven anthems and it has the soulful ballad. It’s a tried and true formula that Momsen and company master, producing a record that’s fun and raunchy in a GNR-kinda way. Yet, it’s also got legit musicality to it. The songs are structured tightly, the guitar solos are not only welcomed but are scorching hot and the vocals, provided by Momsen herself, are really good. She has a great down and dirty growl and a terrific, pretty, soulful set of pipes when needed. Momsen’s style is playful and dangerous reminiscent of an Appetite-era Axl Rose and fresh off the Runaways-era Joan Jett.

Going to Hell isn’t without its shortcomings. Lyrically, the record has a sense over-familiarity — a very been there and done that feel, particularly when it comes to female-fronted hard rock. Like we stated before, this record is a damn fine hard rock record but it’s not going to change the game from a sonic perspective. This is hard rock at its core, never straying too far from the formula that has worked for so many.

But, this record didn’t have to be that record, the one that changes the game with a special, outside the box sound. No, what Going to Hell has done, is take someone with pre-rock ‘n’ roll celebrity and set the groundwork for them to be a potential flag bearer for this sound. If hard rock is looking for a face that’s going to garner mainstream attention, it’s Momsen — a bona fide media darling. And that’s what hard rock needs, someone to be the mainstream representative of a sound that once dominated the collective musical consciousness of the nation.

The Pretty Reckless’ Going to Hell is an electric, fun and bad ass record that has an edge and element of danger that’s just been lacking from the scene — who knew it would take a cast member from Gossip Girl to bring a sense of rock ‘n’ roll back to rock ‘n’ roll.

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites