Female-fronted American four piece, The Pretty Reckless, bring us their third studio album Who You Selling For. And oh my, it’s good!
Incredibly photogenic singer Taylor Momsen already has acting and modelling under her belt and whilst that may encourage unfair judgement, for me, she’s all about the music – as most people are who have been writing songs since they were a young child.
I love how this album opens up with a beautiful piano intro and bluesy vocal which soon dives off into a new direction and unwinds the full rock sound that is opening track “Walls Are Closing In”. It has a grungy feel and heavy Alice in Chains overtones. It immediately strikes me that this album is much less commercial-sounding that the previous two.
Taylor takes us on a journey through her songs and her strength of vocal sound. She has a very accomplished voice for a 22-year-old. It also occurs to me that this album gives us a closer look at the personal and emotional issues stemming from Taylor’s songwriting. The band clearly know how to make a successful rock song, with three number 1s in the rock chart to date – a first for a female-fronted band – but I sense this record is definitely coming from a more sensitive place of expression and reflection rather than the lust for fame and fortune.
When I first gave the album a listen through I’d noted the third track “Take Me Down” as firm favourite, only later realising this was already the well-chosen lead single from the album. A classic rock song both lyrically and musically.
I wasn’t planning to do a track-by-track review but each one has its own qualities that are worth mentioning so it’s hard not to. This is an album of depth, variety, maturity and quality with something to relate to on every song.
Next track and single “Prisoner” opens with a gravel-crunching marching sound effect that carries through the song offering an effective back drop and gives it the drudging, heavy feeling adjacent to the lyrics, whilst simultaneously maintaining a distinctly blues feel.
With “Wild City” we are taken to a whole new level and sound. After a riff-tastic opening, this track mixes a classic disco/motown sound with chunky rock guitar riffs. It works a treat. It brings to mind the delicate simplicity of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” complete with gospel-style harmonies, while firmly retaining its rock identity.
The album further parades some strong blues influences and mostly so on “Back to the River” while title track “Who You Selling For” brings the mood down lower to a heartfelt ballad and some vulnerable exposure of Momsen’s raspy vocal style.
“Bedroom Window” is another interesting and also surprising track. Using the syllabic style of singing one syllable to each note of the gentle finger picked guitar tune, Taylor conjures up an almost medieval folk sound and again takes us deep into her personal space. You can almost picture her writing the song from her bedroom window on a rainy melancholic day.
I have to give “The Devil’s Back” a mention too – this is a sumptuously mellow track, smooth like chocolate, haunting vocals, bluesy piano laced in with stunning guitar solo work from guitarist Ben Phillips which weaves its way through the song into an instrumental ending. It’s simply gorgeous and for me it should definitely have been the final track, it would be a perfect way to end such an album. But alas, “Mad Love” is a pretty good tune too – they all are! Every track really is unique and utterly enjoyable to listen to. This will stay top of my listening pile for a long while to come.
The Pretty Reckless have just announced a UK tour so be sure to catch them live in 2017. Dates are all in January:
- 19 – NOTTINGHAM Rock City
- 20 – BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
- 21 – LONDON O2 Forum
- 23 – GLASGOW O2 ABC
- 24 – MANCHESTER O2 Ritz
Header photo by Katie Frost Photography