The RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS used to sing in their zany years that Catholic school girls rule. You needn't be a charter member of the Chester the Molester brigade to pull the sexual connotation from that song. THE PRETTY RECKLESS' Taylor Momsen is a one-time Catholic school girl and the cover of her band's latest album "Going to Hell" will likely lure those closet meat boppers straight to it upon sight. Momsen plays the bad girl angle to her advantage in THE PRETTY RECKLESS, but this time, there's a different rosary-ditching motive behind "Going to Hell".
Following a successful run as openers for MARILYN MANSON and GUNS N' ROSES, Hurricane Sandy blasted into THE PRETTY RECKLESS' studio as they began the recording sessions for their new album. Having reportedly lost half a million dollars' worth of equipment from the flooding of their studio, THE PRETTY RECKLESS turned their eyes to the blackout of New York City in the aftermath of Sandy and found even deeper inspiration. Thus "Going to Hell" is partially a rock 'n roll vent session stemmed from a dormant dread of the Old Testament where Hell is parallel to the carnage wreaked by a natural disaster.
The tone of "Going to Hell" is nearly as naked as its cover. THE PRETTY RECKLESS sound hung over and not on substances. This is a shell-shocked, stripped-down form of modern rock 'n roll that sounds at times like HEART in their early years and even their most recent few albums. Taylor Momsen carries some Lita Ford edges to her vocals on a couple songs, but she assumes her own identity brewed of rock, blues and country and she is well on her way to becoming a force in hard rock.
The title track wastes no time issuing the band's grievances, and it carries straight into the subsequent track, "Heaven Knows", which finds Taylor and a chorus of school children summoning a depressing mantra inclusive of the indictment "we belong way down below". The rest of the album carries the overtures of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll, but refreshingly avoids celebrating any of those things.
Condemnation instead of revelry is the flavor, evidenced by "Fucked Up World" and "Why'd You Bring a Shotgun to the Party", the latter spitting upon crashers and burners with the edict, "You wanna make a statement, you should've come without it". Despite the orgasm moans leading into the sex-laced drive of "Follow Me Down", Taylor Momsen creates a twisted form allegory by inviting her muse to a lyrical river of cleansing (as in "drink while the water is clean") to purge the primal lust lurking inside all mortals. The break-in acoustic jerks on the choruses immediately throws the song into a western yesteryear before amplification takes over each time they manifest. "Follow Me Down" is tight as a fist and sharply-executed.
Assuredly the stringency of Taylor's parochial schooling carries into the sardonic self-chastisement of "Blame Me" and of course, "Fucked Up World", where Taylor itches that she hardly wants to be saved, not by religious conventions, anyway. On the opposite extreme, the minute long quasi lullaby "Dear Sister" finds Taylor with guitarist Ben Phillips seeking a sort of pity that appropriately carries into the flogging rocker, "Absolution".
Other softer touches on this album are found in the ballads "House On a Hill" and the brief ditty, "Burn", while the country strummed "Waiting for a Friend" ends the album's main selections on a despondent note. Some flower power acoustics and flutes temporarily soften the bitter stomp and huffing chug of "Sweet Things".
Nevertheless, "Going to Hell" is hardly a happy pill, as would be expected from players strung out by their material losses. What they gained, it appears, is a toughened resolve that makes "Going to Hell" a fierce and entertaining record. This album sounds like THE PRETTY RECKLESS picked up a remaining handful of instruments and had at it, just to spite to Mother Nature.
In this case, Catholic school girls do rule, but not for any presumed stall humping moves.