The Pretty Reckless, fronted by Taylor Momsen, have been staring down the precipice of modern rock for a few years now trying to figure out the best route to the top. With the release of "Going To Hell," it's fair to say the band as an entity melded together to produce their most concise and scintillating effort to date. Producing a consistent set of songs that all feel right together both thematically and tonally is a task that can take some bands more than two full length records to accomplish, but The Pretty Reckless have found themselves and their sound with their sophomore release. The fans rewarded the band with heavy first week sales that landed "Going To Hell" at number 5 on the Billboard 200 with over 35,000 copies sold.
Back in November of 2012 The Pretty Reckless faced a setback when the studio they were working at, the ironically named Water Music in Hoboken, was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and flooded by 8 feet of water. All of the band's recordings and gear were lost in the disaster and it took some time for the band to recover. During the recovery time several songs were written for "Going To Hell," including the title track, a song about finding the light in the darkness. As Taylor Momsen explained to Alter The Press it took, "a lot of effort and a lot of tragedy to get this record finished."
That effort, and the tragedy, can be found in the grooves of "Going To Hell" and felt in the emotionally turbulent 12 tracks that made the final cut. From the sexually charged hard rock opener, "Follow Me Down," to the album's folksy closer, "Waiting For A Friend," Going To Hell takes the listener on a deep, dark, gritty and honest journey unlike any other band on the scene is currently offering. "Going To Hell," in short, is a flavor of musical candy that you just can't find anywhere else.
Only 1,000 fans were able to get their hands on the blood red vinyl pressing of "Going To Hell" and enjoy the album's first pressing in all of it's analog glory. Two subsequent limited edition vinyl record pressings include a grey swirl vinyl limited to 1,000 that sold out almost immediately and a sepia toned cover version on black vinyl limited to 1,500 copies which is nearly sold out. When the album is split into two sides, unlike a single track list of the CD or digital download, it's almost impossible to compare side A and side B and not become opinionated about which side is musically stronger. For me, it becomes clear that side A of the record is more satisfying for a variety of reasons.
Side A of "Going To Hell," has a lot of things going for it. It has two hit songs, including "Heaven Knows," and the title track and it's chock full of honest visceral energy including the sexually charged manifesto of "Follow Me Down." Side A also has the hauntingly beautiful "House On A Hill" that gives Momsen and her band the room to enchant the record with one of the moodier and thought provoking moments of the album. "Sweet Things" quickly picks up the pace of side A and finds Momsen belting out lyrics such as, "I'm evil knocking at your door. I'm evil making you my whore," and then enters a murky lyrical space that borders on the taboo. "Dear Sister" rounds out side A of "Going To Hell" with a short 56 second musical interlude that borders on an orchestral space. Momsen sings in her upper register as a guitar with a heavy chorus effect accompanies her. It's the set up to side B, almost the calm before the storm, if you will.
Side A of "Going To Hell" is almost as complete of a side of a record as I've ever heard. It's constructed like a work of fine art, it's form follows it's function in a manner that makes sense. It takes you on the journey but it doesn't force anything upon you, and it's never heavy handed for the sake of shock value, cheap thrills or any of the vagrancies that plague many modern rock albums. Side B of "Going To Hell" is good, but like any precious gemstone there are flaws if you look close enough. None of the flaws, however, detract much from the overall package.
Side B starts out strong with "Absolution," a song that pulls no punches once it reaches high gear. In and by itself it's one of the strongest songs on the album both musically and lyrically. "Blame Me" is a vocal showcase for Momsen and again displays how far the band has come as songwriters since "Light Me Up," their 2010 debut. It's raw and emotionally charged in all the right ways. "Burn" is an acoustic number that may have served the album better swapped with the side A track "Sweet Things," which might have been a better lead-in track to the somewhat forgettable "Why'd You Bring A Shotgun To The Party," a song that perhaps pays a little musical homage to Marilyn Manson in it's guitar riffing, but is a bit of an empty song when compared to such brilliant tracks as "Heaven Knows," or "House On A Hill."
The next track, "Fucked Up World," suffers the same flaws as the song it follows, it's just not in tune with the same quality or function as the rest of the album and ends up feeling like a B-side to a single that somehow made the album. I know that Momsen and her band are capable of producing better written material, but I do respect the tragedy that the song was born from. "Going To Hell," is dedicated to the wife of the band's producer who passed away during the production of the album, and "Fucked Up World" is about her untimely passing.
"Waiting For A Friend" finishes off "Going To Hell" in an acoustic piece that features harmonica, not unlike something along the lines that Bob Dylan might have written. It's deep, in fact lyrically it proves that there's substance to this outfit, and the depth is matched by a catchy melody sung in Momsen's lower to mid register. There's something about Momsen's delivery, sadness with a bit of regret, that perfectly paints the song as a colorful and potent story about being trapped within oneself. "Going To Hell" is out now on Razor & Tie records.