The Pretty Reckless ‘Death By Rock And Roll’ Album Review

Death By Rock And Roll (Century Media Records/Sony Music Australia), The Pretty Recklessfirst album in four years, is out this Friday 12th February! The band, helmed by Taylor Momsen has come a long way since starting out back in 2008. Looking at their success, it’s hard to believe that TPR have only been around for a little over ten years, and that Momsen was just a teenager when they caught the music world by storm, shedding her Gossip Girl image forever and silencing the doubters. Their light shines brighter and brighter with each record – and their latest offering is going to be no different!

Voices like Momsen’s come along so rarely these days; her vocals on this record are some of the best female vocals this side of the 80s, and with lyrics like On my tombstone when I go / just put ‘Death By Rock and Roll, she has cemented her place in history as a queen of rock! Her world-weary attitude, emotional outpourings, and dark lyrics make it seem as though she has lived many lives before this one, particularly in fourth track ‘25’: At 25, all hope has died / and the glass of my intentions turns to sand / … shatters in my hand. 

Death By Rock and Roll  took over a year to make – the band first went into the studio in late 2018 – but the result is a high quality record well worth the blood, sweat and tears it would have taken to produce. The record also features music legends Matt Cameron and Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) and Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave), a reminder of just how many talented friends the band has made on their journey. Guitarist Ben Phillips is adamant that “Taylor sacrificed everything for this record. I think it shows” – it certainly does! As does the emotional toll of Chris Cornell’s death by suicide just hours after a shared gig in Detroit back in 2017. But rather than let the loss defeat them, they turned to writing a raw and honest record.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, opening track ‘Death By Rock and Roll’ is The Pretty Reckless at their very best, especially welcome after the prolonged break! Momsen is quick to remind us that the song is “not a morbid [one]”, but instead is a about living “’my way; I’m going out my way’. That’s the rock and roll ethic. It’s empowering”. ‘Standing at the Wall’ brings with it a brief and beautiful change of pace. It also tugs at the heartstrings: I am standing at the wall / it is high and I am small / all alone there’s no one to catch me when I fall. After hearing this song, I am sure that this band can do no wrong! ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ with its twangy, country music feel, is still very much a rock song, and tells us about Taylor’s love of rock music, which she believes, cliché or not “saved our lives”. It’s another heartbreaker about losing music icons too soon, while being thankful for the time they were on earth – and the inspiration they provided over the years. What a tribute!

Do I have a favourite song on the record? No. I think it will be years before I am able to pick one out above the rest, but for now – to me – they are all equal. I recommend taking the time to sit down and listen to the record in full. Fully appreciate it. And then do it all over again.

Welcome back, TPR, it’s so good to hear from you!  

From February 12th, you’ll be able to grab a copy of Death By Rock And Roll here: