When The Pretty Reckless first broke onto the scene with their album “Light Me Up” back in February of 2011, their blend of hard rock roots and aggressive, sexually charged lyrics set them apart from both other bands and from their female-led musical predecessors. One of the other main factors for their huge popularity was the chatter all across the internet at the band’s choice of frontrunner and leadsinger, Taylor Momsen, a name that left some going, “Who?” while others said, “Cindy Lou Who!”

Despite the hype over Momsen as the band’s lead, she has not overshadowed her bandmates, Ben Phillips (lead guitar, backing vocals), Mark Damon (bass), and Jamie Perkins (drums, percussion). Phillips had a notable role in their newest album release, titled “Going to Hell.” While he only sang a few verses in one song, this is a huge jump from “Light Me Up,” where he only sang a few lines.

“Going to Hell” begins with one of their hit singles, “Follow Me Down,” where a brief dramatic introduction (with porn star Jenna Haze faking an orgasm) segues into a guitar-heavy opening riff, allowing Phillips to set the album’s tone with his signature style. As with a number of songs from “Light Me Up,” this one deals with Momsen singing the age old, “Since I’ve met you, I’ve been crazy” line, talking about the influence of a significant other, though the song ends implying that heartbreak killed her, leading appropriately into the next song.

“Going to Hell,” the second track on this release, is a faster, more excited song with echoes of “Goin’ Down” from “Light Me Up.” It even features the priest to whom Momsen confesses her numerous sexual dalliances, singing, “Father, did you miss me?” A line later followed by, “For the lives that I take, I’m going to hell. /For the laws that I break, I’m going to hell,” a whole-hearted embrace of the vice and decadence for which the band is now known.

This is followed by “Heaven Knows,” where the band’s hard rock influences shine, creating a song that feels cut straight out of the late 80s/early 90s, though the lyrics are weaker and the instruments aren’t given the attention they deserve. 

After, “House on a Hill” softens the album’s mood, serving as the first slower, poignant track. There are subtle critiques of religion in this and not in the rebellious way the previous lyrics suggest. About those in the house, Momsen sings, “Their intention is to kill, and they will, they will/ but the children are doing fine/ I think about them all the time,/ until they drink the wine,/then they will, they will, they will.”

Through a use of a carefully played acoustic guitar and more longing vocals, the band keeps the listener’s attention despite this huge departure from their normal chaotic energy.

The song “Sweet Things” might be the heaviest, hardest track, but it isn’t for the faint of heart, as it deals with what one would assume is pedophilia. Phillips sings about luring a girl inside, to which Momsen responds that she is “Evil knocking at your door,” an exchange that feels right out of the movie “Hard Candy.” This is followed up by a very short farewell song titled “Dear Sister,” that ends, “Looks like I’m not coming home/but I don’t mind./Please don’t cry.”

Returning to their usual dynamism, the following track is titled “Absolution,” and bears some slight country and blues guitar influences. The lyrics come back as hard-hitting as the first tracks on the albums, with Momsen singing, “Run, boy, be a man/ with legs too weak to make a stand.” The track itself declares a need for absolution, simultaneously criticizing those who expect redemption without working for it.

After, the song “Blame Me” comes, though this feels like a slightly whiny criticism of those who criticized the band’s take on morality, especially the explicit sexuality. Starting off with a series of very shrill guitar notes, Momsen sings “Blame me for all your life.” The rest of the song is similarly uninspired.

This is followed by “Burn,” a short song of only two verses and two choruses, that, despite the slightly cliché lyrics and simple instruments, manages to be catchy and sorrowful at the same time.

The 10th track, “Why’d You Bring a Shotgun to the Party,” is the most damning song on the album, and suggests the band might take a twist toward social criticism. In addition to the skillful instrumental work, which makes the song gripping from the first notes, Momsen sings, “Everybody’s got one, there’s nothing new about it,/if you want to make a statement, you should’ve come without it.”

“F***d up World,” the next song, features similar criticism, the lyrics running, “No mountain made of money/can buy you a soul” and “You ain’t getting what you want/ unless you get it for free.” The music itself is a little lighter than other songs, and the chorus falls short of the impressive verses, but overall it’s an entertaining track.

The regular version of this album ends with “Waiting for a Friend,” in which the lyrics compare many things (Momsen’s room, her bed, her head) to a prison cell, because “I’m all by myself.” The prison theme is appropriately supported by the use of a harmonica throughout. The guitar is also a gentle, even peaceful, acoustic rhythm. While this is a decent song, it made for a surprising end of the release and feels very out of place for this band.

However, the deluxe edition ends with acoustic versions of “Going to Hell” and “Sweet Things,” which are slightly changed to have more lonely, haunting melodies without forsaking the charged, exciting feeling these songs have in their original versions. This is a much more fitting end to the release, and as much as I usually dislike acoustic tracks, I recommend spending the extra two dollars for the songs.

In this release, The Pretty Reckless manage to not only retain the same powerful instrumentals and dominating vocals (in many cases, exceeding the work from their previous album), but they advance beyond mere provocative imagery to occasionally embrace more critical messages, a move that the band will hopefully continue to explore in the future. This album is definitely worth the money, and even the weaker tracks will bring you in for repeat listens.

PHOTO TAKEN fromtprbenelux.tumblr.com