I’ll admit it now, I’ve been a bit obsessed with Taylor Momsen since she took Gossip Girl’s Jenny Humphrey from naive ‘Queen Bee’ hopeful, to scheming social climbing rebel. She made the clean cut Upper Eastside all sorts of grungy. When it was revealed that she was leaving the show because her band The Pretty Reckless would be releasing an album, people were sceptical of how successful her move to music would be. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Whether you like the band’s style or not, the girl can sing.
She has smoky tones, rough edges and sweet notes that meld together with a metal/rock inspired sound that’s beautifully haunting and surprising twisted for a (then) 17 year-old.
While she may no longer be the role model Cindy Lou Who was (Momsen played the girl who taught the The Grinch to feel), she has the same no apologies attitude, which comes across in her music. Each song feels like an extension of a raw feeling that she, as writer or co-writer of many of the songs, must have been feeling at one time or another.
She’s definitely grown up though; now usually found sporting her favourite pair of stripper shoes and charcoal black eyes. She may be controversial for some, but it’s universally respected that grown up Momsen is talented as hell.
Hit Me Like A Man is a great follow-up EP to the band’s first album, Light Me Up. It follows the same alt-rock style, with a strong vocal element that understandable saw the band tour with Evanescence last year.
This EP includes two live versions of songs from the band’s first album; Make Me Wanna Die – which even if you haven’t heard of the band you may have heard over the credits of the film Kick-Ass and Since You’re Gone. Here you get an idea of the band live, you can hear comparatively how Momsen makes a live performance of each song convey its messages through her vocals. It’s a nice addition for fans of the first album.
Listening to the three new tracks there are qualities that expand on the songs that the band does well, from big rock screams with a catchy chorus to more soft, thoughtful, stripped down songs that put you into a haze.
Hit Me Like A Man – “I am strong, but love is evil” – as far as opening lines go these are pretty forceful ones, unless you take them as melodramatic. The Pretty Reckless have to be taken for what they are and I can’t help falling into each song. Hit Me Like A Man conjures up the ideas of challenge and temptation, and beneath that, longing. The song has bold suggestions of violence, making you think about how violence and love equate with masculinity and femininity. A solid choice for a titular track. 4/5
Under The Water – The respectful sad song that feels like we’re reminiscing of ‘being younger’. Momsen sings of how you can be strong when you’re young, and how easily people can be lost, how they might sink not swim. “Don’t let the water drag you down“, is a key line of both encouragement and mourning. This song makes you want to be strong; it’s one that you’d listen to alone in your bedroom when you need to scream, cry or just get out how you feel emotionally, whilst breaking stuff… You’ll feel better for it, because like this song, it’s cathartic. 5/5
Cold Blooded – The Pretty Reckless’ suave and arrogant song that you might need after feeling betrayed. It reeks of how people must feel on different sides of an argument where a relationship is concerned. Unlike many of the songs it doesn’t just feature Momsen’s female voice, but also the male voice of Ben Phillips, whose words and sound contrast enough to ensure that each voice is distinctive. It’s a duet of a different sort because both parts are sung so perfectly against the other. Like people singing the same song on different sides of a wall; it’s the kind of staging that wouldn’t go amiss in a music video. So long as its not overplayed or too dramatic. 4/5