Music Reviews

ALBUM REVIEW: The Pretty Reckless – Death By Rock And Roll

Death By Rock And Roll is kicking off an important new era for The Pretty Reckless. Almost five years on from their previous album Who You Selling For, the quartet are back and no stones are left unturned during this powerful, autobiographical effort.

The release opens with title-track Death By Rock and Roll which, when released as a single, became the band’s fifth number one on the Billboard Rock charts and gained them the record for the most number one singles by a female-led rock artist in the rock chart. Fiery, hard rock and roll is simply what this track is with bold, gritty guitar lines which live up to the rock and roll title, whilst also acting as a tribute to late producer Kato Khandwala who worked with the band on their previous releases.

Any Taylor Momsen fan knows of her love for Soundgarden, which is why Only Love Can Save Me Now feels like a special point of the release, especially as it was recorded at London Bridge Studio in Seattle where Soundgarden recorded Louder Than Love. Sultry vocals sing of a hope for a better future: “I want to be saved from the sound the world is spitting out,” before a fierce instrumental provided by Matt Cameron and Kim Thayil overpower what has come before.

Despite releasing both tracks as singles, And So It Went and 25 are prime examples of why The Pretty Reckless are a in a different league right now, highlighting the variation within their sound. First up, we have the chaotic energy of latest single And So It Went featuring Tom Morello. Touching upon on the civil unrest within the dark world around us, it becomes a call to action or a battle chant through lines such as “the world does not belong to you, you are not the king, I am not the fool“. Add in ferocious guitars riffs from Morello, a delicate bridge addition and the Maine Academy of Modern Music providing a choir element; you’ve got a mighty track. But we go to the complete opposite sound spectrum with 25, as slow, seductive vocals flaunt the singer-songwriter’s range. We’re captivated by the James Bond-esque track, complete with an upbeat bridge build-up to a tense moment, where it erupts into full power that nobody sees coming. 

The release is unpredictable, but isn’t that just like the life we’re being told about throughout the album? From the rowdiness of My Bones, with its raw scream vocals and relentless drums from Jamie Perkins, to the serenity of Got So High which captivates us, taking our breath away in the process. This dreamy effort is laced with vulnerability from Momsen, looking back and reflecting on these moments. “I was something but now I’m nothing” is one of the most haunting, emotive lines on the release, when listened to in the context of the full album. This is supported by Standing At The Wall, making it impossible to not connect to the pain spoken of: “I am standing at the wall, it is high and I am small,” when thinking about taking risks but having nobody to help support you when things might go wrong.  

Spitting vocals on Witches Burn tell of the issues with the male dominated music industry. Momsen confidently expresses “If you think you’re better than me, I know you’re not,” which is indeed correct. An instrumental section sees mind-twirling guitar lines twisted with driving drumlines, keeping you hooked. Again, reminding everyone that they’re a force to be reckoned with, is Turning Gold. With a country rock twang, it’s about coming out on top vocalised in lyrics “I can feel the power – I’m turning gold” – the story telling song is full of positivity throughout. Merge the uplifting lyrics with twisty, electrifying guitar lines and you’ll be struggling to keep your fist punching under control during this golden track.  

Closing the release is a duo of different tracks yet both have a reminiscent theme. Rock and Roll Heaven takes us on a look back to earlier years. Momsen references again those who have been lost along the way: “I hope you found some peace, everything I am today is what you made of me,” and the influences they’ve had on the band’s sound whilst retaining the country edge. A harmonica introduction and relaxed guitar line allows Harley Darling to close the album, as beautiful tribute to those lost: “now I’m all alone, singing this lonely song,” except no longer will they be alone as the world sings with them after hearing this album. The Pretty Reckless haven’t pigeonholed themselves to a genre, instead the release is carried by the themes of loss, remembrance and hope, making an memorable body of work.

After a five year wait since their previous release, The Pretty Reckless‘ fans are no doubt going to be glad they’ve returned, especially with such a solid album in tow. Despite the musical rollercoaster it takes us on, from serenades to screams, it’s clear that something truly beautiful has risen from a dark place. Death By Rock And Roll is more than worthy of everyone’s time, to brighten up your February days.


For Fans Of: Halestorm, New Years Day, Three Days Grace

Standout Tracks: Got So High, Turning Gold, 25

Written By: Nicola Craig

Nicola Craig
Head of Live with an unwavering love for the seaside, live music and writing about others instead of myself. Twitter: @nicolalalalar