Taylor Momsen is frequently underestimated, as is her band The Pretty Reckless. Both to her credit and working against them is Momsen’s history as an actor. If it weren’t for her stint on Gossip Girl, many wouldn’t even know her name.
With their Sophomore album just released in the middle of a world tour, that probably won’t end any year soon, the band’s sounds are consistent yet better than ever. Taylor and bandmate Ben have described the album in interviews as more stripped down than that their first album, in addition to featuring more of the essence of the band.
Light Me Up was really just a more produced version of what the band are capable of creating. Over-production in this case, actually makes them sound less great than they actually are – confirmed by their ridiculously powerful gig at The Electric Ballroom in Camden last week.
Going to Hell is much harder rock than before and is more in keeping with the songs that were produced before the first album, such as Zombie. They rely only on Momsen’s gruff, enunciated belting, smashing drums and crashing guitars to get your heart pumping along with bigger and bigger tracks. There is no fluff.
The Camden show opened with Follow Me Down, the first track on the album, complete with moaning intro. By the time it reached Heaven Knows the crowd were leaping and screaming the words back at the stage with increasing enthusiasm and passion.
Taylor herself is a captivating stage presence. She is of few words but each word is necessary because this is less of a personality show and more of a music performance, which is what rock should be. Save the costume changes for pop, go to one of their shows to hear them play better than any recording equipment could ever capture.
The one draw back of the live show was that maintaining the high energy meant that some of the best tracks from the album didn’t make it to the stage. A personal highlight was the Evanescence-esque House on a Hill. The song is an epic rise and fall about the struggle we all have with acceptance.
Overall, the album is fantastic and there isn’t a bad track in the lot. However, not all the songs are the same. They aren’t all anthems. They aren’t all long stories. They’re an exploration of themes of good and evil using religious metaphor.
What more can be said? What should be said? The band would probably rather you listen and hear for yourself.