The Pretty Reckless – ‘Who You Selling For’ [Review]
Although it’s 2016, not 1016, women in music remain a complicated subject. For some, anyway. Things are changing – slowly – and here, I’m going to talk about the third album from a band doing more than most to keep those changes coming.
The Pretty Reckless are currently sitting on their fourth rock-radio-topping single in
to see the light of day. Fronted as they are by the undeniably badass Taylor Momsen, that makes The Pretty Reckless notable as the first female-fronted rock act to embark on such a streak since The Pretenders.
Achieving genuine gender equality is impossible unless we treat all people equally
rather than assigning one set of standards for men and another for women. So as quickly as possible, I’m going to get to the bit where I review
as “an album by a highly successful rock band” rather than “an album by a highly successful
rock band”. But first, a quick side rant inspired by (what else?) a common theme adopted by YouTube commenters over the years The Pretty Reckless have been active.
Listen to The Pretty Reckless’s previous work for more than a fraction of a second, and you’ll pick up on a near-constant sexual undercurrent. It’s not just there because Taylor Momsen happens to be female – it’s there because historically, she’s actively played up to her status as a rock and roll sex symbol. Cue many derisive comments about The Pretty Reckless being “all marketing,” suckering gullible drooling men into parting with portions of their hard-earned paychecks.
To be fair, in The Pretty Reckless’s early days, those critics had a point – not because of anything gender-related, but simply because six years ago, The Pretty Reckless just weren’t that good.
was a massive step up in every respect. Listening back to it now,
stands the test of time – and anyone huffing and puffing at the forthright sexuality on display there should go back and listen to any Led Zeppelin album, where you’ll find Robert Plant basically singing not from his throat or chest but from his Golden Godly erection, calling forth one of the most potent and rightfully respected voices in the history of rock ‘n’ roll in the process.
Today, the list of facts, figures, and achievements speak for themselves. The Pretty Reckless now exist on another level. It’s time to afford them the respect they not only deserve, but have
So that’s the gender stuff out of the way. Let’s move on. What about
is first and foremost a Rock Album, full of Rock Songs. That’s pretty obvious. But rock is a gigantic genre in its own right – and The Pretty Reckless have so far explored only a small portion of it.
, things change completely – while still remaining firmly rooted in rock. This is the album on which The Pretty Reckless wear their influences on their sleeves. All told,
proves that these guys can no longer be considered a marketing-driven gimmick band who got famous (to quote one wannabe YouTube comedian) “because boobs”.
kicks things off with a piano-driven intro, seriously raw guitar, deep-grooving drums, and an immense, spiralling breakdown. This opener immediately got my attention – as does all music that focusses primarily on primal rhythmic power.
turns up the intensity, fuelled by the spirit of Lemmy Kilmister as Motörhead’s influence looms large before one grungy chorus hook and even shades of Metallica’s bluesy period at one point.
’s core theme: the unrelenting pressure to perform at a world-class level while the world’s bastards do their best to grind you down. Make no mistake – The Pretty Reckless have something to prove on
’s self-effacing lyrics with some super-confident strutting, introducing a taste of The Rolling Stones’
swings to the other extreme, a personal highlight made up of wah-ridden cop show funk, twisted urban rock, and a shreddy wah solo, striking a perfect balance between fun music and darker lyrical themes.
keeps The Pretty Reckless going strong, a roots rock showcase with more shades of The Stones;
sounds like The Smashing Pumpkins, tense and grittily epic; and
sees Taylor Momsen and Ben Phillips tackle a live and intimate acoustic-and-vocal track with a beautiful Beatles vibe.
By this point, everything The Pretty Reckless have set out to prove is all but proven.
, an unfortunate on-record weak spot with massive live potential drained here by a hollow-feeling mix; a pair of songs practically custom-made for Tarantino soundtracks in
and…hold on. Let’s rewind quickly to that last one, because it deserves a special mention.
starts out in the form of a pulsing alt-rock track with, again, Tarantino soundtrack potential. That’s normally enough to win me over on its own. But cue one tangential turn into Pink Floyd territory with an epic-length solo that pulls
The Pretty Reckless go prog. I honestly didn’t see that coming – but now that I’ve heard it, I’m stunned. It’s fucking great.
Where to go from there? Well, this is rock ‘n’ roll, and rebelling against all expectations is what it’s all about. So to close things off, we have
get your hips grinding uncontrollably wherever you are.
Best not to listen to that one while queueing for a job interview, then.
gives way to silence. At this point, there’s only one thing left to say.
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A writer with a BA(Hons) in Music Business and a Higher Diploma in Contemporary Music Performance, Leon’s greatest passions lie in helping great musicians and music-related businesses achieve their deepest goals, desires, and dreams.
Like most writers, Leon will tell you that he hates writing about himself in the third person, while secretly quite enjoying it.
I’m considering putting myself in a light coma so that this album gets here faster.
Haha! I’d recommend putting Going To Hell on repeat instead – way more fun!
I just need it. At least we get a new track on Friday. I absolutely love how much they have grown.
Love The Pretty Reckless, but how can you say first female fronted rock band on a streak since the Pretenders…. What about the Unbeatable Lzzy Hale and Halestorm?
Good question! That part was pretty much verbatim from the press release, which isn’t online so I can’t link it. But here’s something from Razor & Tie from last year which makes more or less the same point. TPR are currently even further ahead than before!