Trojan Living Editor
After the loss of idols and friends such as Chris Cornell in 2017 and longtime producer Kato Khandwala in 2018, it took a while for Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless (TPR) to find herself again.
But after three years since their previous album, “Who You Selling For,” the band is finally back with a new album, “Death by Rock and Roll.”
The title-track “Death by Rock and Roll” opens the album with the sound of the footsteps of Khandwala walking down the hallway of their recording studio.
A song which had been in the works for years prior finally came back around after the late producer’s passing and Momsen thought “what better way to…keep his memory alive than with music?”, according to Consequence of Sound.
This song is a powerful anthem that perfectly encapsules what it is to live on your own terms.
Next up, “Only Love Can Save Me Now” is a slower, heavier track that features Matt Cameron and Kim Thayil from Soundgarden on drums and guitar.
If you listen back to songs like “Oh My God” from the “Who You Selling For” record, the Soundgarden influences are extremely obvious.
To have them on this record feels like coming full circle. Though this song has signature Thayil moments and even a small drum solo from Cameron, it is still unique to TPR in its sound.
Track three is one of my favorites so far. “And So It Went” features Tom Morello on guitar and brings us back to the higher tempo that the album began with.
“The world does not belong to you, you are not the king, I am not the fool…” chants Momsen, addressing the imbalance of power between the youth and those in power today. Morello’s sound is perfect for this tune and this is one I plan to keep in heavy rotation.
“25” is a slow and dark song, counting through Momsen’s own life. In this song she eludes to the passing of time and the inevitability of death.
At 3:07, the song takes an unexpected turn into a bouncier, lighter section, reminiscent of The Beatles’ “A Day In the Life.” Though this bit of lightness does not last long, as the song ends just as dismal as it started; with a shaker and single echoing kickdrum, eluding to a heartbeat and the ticking of a clock.
“My Bones” is a shocking transition from the last track, with a stomping, chugging intro. A minimal song musically, this one doesn’t need much decoration. The lyrics are powerful enough on their own, “Way out in the gardens, way out in the fields / So far from civilized nations and discorded ordeals…” and “Forgotten by man, there stands an old hanging tree / Some roots are still growing / Your title will go / Bury it down with my soul, where they’ll never find me / My bones….”
The sixth track “Got So High” is a mellow confessional. “Success showed something, at the same time nothing, I / Thought I got it, but it seems I’ve lost it, I / I got so high…” sings Momsen with the help of an acoustic guitar and piano.
This track reminds me of “Fade into You” by Mazzy Star, just rougher to accommodate Momsen’s vocal style. Though I am a fan of their heavier works, this is easily one of my favorites on this album due to how vulnerable and raw it is.
Skipping over the short Halloween-esque “Broomsticks,” we come to “Witches Burn,” a bluesy, blatant commentary on how women have always been viewed by society.
“Welcome back to the days of old,” Momsen sings. “Where the men are men and the women are sold / unwilling sacrifice / They kill ‘em young so they never get old…”
The rest of the song addresses Momsen’s impatience with following rules and acknowledging that “All witches burn.…”
Slowing things down again is the next song, “Standing At The Wall.” This song talks about the loss of the innocence we all once possessed as children, and how life has weighed us down over time. “A lot of ladi-da-da-da’s, when we were young / With no memories to weigh us down and life was fun…” is one of my favorite lyrics from the song. This is a track a lot of fans are going to be able to relate to.
“Turning Gold” begins and ends with what sounds like a sitar, and even has some organ dispersed throughout the beginning just before the tempo picks up. This song unpacks the uncertainties of life, but stays hopeful that “somehow, it’ll be alright.”
Second to last song, “Rock And Roll Heaven” touches on Momsen’s own influences which led her to where she is now. She heavily references Club 27 throughout the song, singing, “In rock and roll heaven, the great gig in the sky / Gotta make it to 27 before I die….”
This song musically sounds like something you’d hear from the 70’s, with a moderate tempo, and acoustically driven powerful chorus.
The lyrics to this one stood out to me as I thought of my own musical influences, thinking back to Chris Cornell as well. This one is cathartic in all senses of the word.
Momsen ends the song on an inspiring note with “Thought I was done living, but I’ll survive” and “Gotta take what you’ve been given and just fly…”
The last song on the record, “Harley Darling” makes it no easier to pin down the overall sound to expect out of the record. Beginning with a bluesy harmonica, this song goes into a similar sound as the last — a 70’s bluesy, acoustic tune. After starting the album with an homage to Kato Khandwala, it ends with one as well, “Oh, Harley darling, you took my friend…Won’t you take me back to Hollywood / Let me see him one more time.”
This album is a definite step away from their last heavier and dirtier record as it took a more laid-back approach. This one was clearly an album that needed to be made for the band to move forward from their losses.
It is a real and raw record documenting those feelings of being beaten down by life but eventually getting back up and surviving. It is an album that was well worth the wait and is well worth the listen.