Final Rating: 7.4/10
Taylor Momsen’s second spin with The Pretty Reckless is one you know she waited to make after she became an adult. It’s full of risque themes and hyper-sexuality. It’s also an album she waited to make long after her time on the television show Gossip Girl was long gone so there wouldn’t be a clash between her past projects and now. Her timing was right, and The Pretty Reckless’s newest album Going to Hell is an album that does a little bit more than 2010’s Light Me Up; Just the album names show a distinctive jump in self awareness. Does Going to Hell represent a trip to the fiery pits below as much as it signifies a jump between ledges for Taylor Momsen? Perhaps not in the sense that you’d think. While the album never feels too daring or self destructive (in a good sense), it does feel fun and never stupidly so. There isn’t a moment that stands out as overly cheesy or awkward. It’s a joyride that serves its purpose.
If anything, the hell the album finds itself heading towards is the hell created by society and the media. When The Pretty Reckless toured with Marilyn Manson, his influence definitely rubbed off on the band both lyrically and musically. If anybody is to work as an idol of public damnation, it’s Marilyn Manson.There is a common mixture of blasphemy and sexuality, which is pretty normal for a rock singer who only just hit 20. Sometimes the two themes are thrown together within the same line, such as the lyric “now youre on your knees with your head hung low. Big man tells you where to go”, found in the song Heaven Knows. In the song “Fucked Up World”, Momsen sings about the common topics found in heavier music (sex, drugs and rock n’ roll anyone?) but with a large sense of her position. She sings about these themes knowing fully well that they are old hat and as dated as an overused meme. She knows these are the typical bulletins spewed out by mainstream society, though, and her catering to these cliches isn’t any sign of selling out but rather a statement on how the genre works. It was a pretty bold move considering how hard it is to differentiate between jest and laziness, but Going To Hell makes its stances known from the get go.
The album is a straight up rock record but it isn’t a boring one that gives up. Ben Phillips throws in guitar riffs that never sound completely uninspired. Even if some moments stick out more than others, there is always an obvious effort put into the melodies and why they are the way they are. You’ll find your usual rock anthems and softer ballads on here just like you would on any rock album, yet these songs don’t feel as though they are being shoved down our throats. Blame Me comes at the right time after the guitar fuzz ending off Absolution before it and before the short acoustic interlude Burn. Momsen’s vocals are rather impressive on this album as they balance between harsh and delicate as often as the music itself does. She seems to have gotten the rock star attitude down very well. She can sneer and snarl as can be heard during Why’d You Bring A Shotgun To The Party. She can wail and scream (also clearly influenced by Manson’s music) as can be heard during the middle portion of Sweet Things. She can finally sing innocently and sound completely natural doing so, which we are left off with on the final song on the album Waiting for a Friend.
Going to Hell doesn’t break any new ground nor will it shift music down the line. It is very standard with the kind of album it wants to be. It does, however, try to be as good as it can be within this genre. For someone who can easily plop a substandard record and earn lots of money from it because of her previous fame, Taylor Momsen doesn’t just make music for the hell of it but because she genuinely wants to. It’s this kind of blatant passion that gives Going to Hell the kind of life many mainstream hard rock albums have been missing for a while. It’s almost as if Momsen became an actress and made it big just to start her music career off on a steady foot. Perhaps later down the line The Pretty Reckless will become as off the rails as they seem on paper (again, in a good way). For now, we at least have this album’s consistency of sound, what it tries to project lyrically and its thematics. It won’t bite as much as the album cover would make you believe it does, and it won’t disrespect you as a listener either. Oddly enough, Going to Hell this year feels pretty solid.