The Pretty Reckless - Light Me Up
Ian Sandwell here: your one and only (Music Fix) source into the scandalous lives of New York’s (potential) elite The Pretty Reckless. Little J has been busy over the summer creating her band’s debut album and courted controversy over her combination of the words ‘friend’ and ‘vibrator’ in the same sentence. What will S make of it? Will she follow in Rufus' footsteps and become a world-famous rocker? Is little J the next Juliette Lewis or the next Minnie Driver?
OK, that’s enough of the Gossip Girl references; for the uninitiated, little J in the teen drama is played by Taylor Momsen who is now aiming to break into the music industry with grunge rock band The Pretty Reckless. Actors becoming musicians is a potentially dodgy career choice but their debut single ‘Make Me Wanna Die’ showcased crunching riffs mixed with Momsen’s snarled vocals and gave us hope – hope that has paid off in spades with Light Me Up.
Opener ‘My Medicine’ is a strong indication of the rocky blues vibe that permeates through the album and its staccato chords grab your attention from the first note to create a track guaranteed to get the head nodding. You also immediately notice the strength of Momsen’s vocals with her use of high/low dynamics and their raw intensity; a 17-year-old should not have this much pain in her voice but the sometimes-strained vocals add an extra dimension to the album, especially evident in power ballad ‘Just Tonight’. The straightforward grunge efforts don’t disappoint either: forthcoming single ‘Miss Nothing’ has a killer chorus, an even better riff and manages to walk the thin line between neither being too hard for the pop audience (her Gossip Girl fanbase), nor being too soft for the grunge fans who Momsen aspires to impress. By far the strongest track on an album packed full of highlights though is ‘Goin’ Down’ – a tale of caution for any guy who dares to cross Momsen’s path – which explodes with an intro oddly reminiscent of Ash’s ‘Orpheus’ and frequently plays with tempo throughout resulting in an enthralling listen.
Much has been made of Momsen’s edgy style for someone still in their teens but, in truth, the album is about as risqué as an episode of her TV show. References are made to the standards, sex, drugs etc., but they’re barely explored and the closest the lyrics get to being controversial is on ‘Goin’ Down’ with its opening gambit: “Hey there Father, I don't wanna bother you / But I've got a sin to confess / I'm just sixteen if you know what I mean / Do you mind if I take off my dress?” At times the lyrics are simplistic, with the worst offender being ‘Factory Girl’ with its repetitive nature, but there’s enough depth, such as on the powerful ‘Nothing Left To Lose’, to bode well for future efforts which will benefit from extra maturity and experience.
If there are any downsides to be found, it's that it feels a bit slight at just ten tracks, especially when they leave it to the last song to break out from the rock genre with the touching acoustic-led ‘You’. However, as debut albums go Light Me Up is an impressively assured and consistently entertaining effort that should wipe away any concerns about the background of the lead singer. Little J has grown up and rock fans everywhere would do well to take note.