Everything here is a guilty pleasure. You know it’s wrong, but it feels so right.
Chris Roberts 2010
The Pretty Reckless are pretty much a shoo-in for critical drubbings in the UK, whatever noise they make. They push every wrong button. Teenage girl singer wearing lingerie onstage and writhing around on tables in the videos? Check. Happens to be a Hollywood actress who co-stars (as Jenny) in the glitzy, vacuous (and addictive) Gossip Girl, which isn’t The Wire? Check. Is backed by three hairy hired hands twice her age (and width)? Check. The only thing that could make them less palatable to British arbiters of taste would be if they sounded like Hole in a trainer bra. Oh.
So they bring out the contrarian in one from the off. First, the acting thing. Other – albeit better-known – actors like Scarlett Johansson, Juliette Lewis and Zooey Deschanel may not have made the best music of the past few years but they’ve all received a degree of praise for their efforts. Second, the wardrobe: if Taylor Momsen, the dodgy Lolita figure here, was wearing dungarees and a balaclava, would that mean The Pretty Reckless’ grunge-pop was okay? She’s more modestly attired than Britney or Christina were in their breakthrough days, and however polished her slick rock is, it’s indisputably more provocative than the never-dissed Rihanna’s latest offering.
Citing influences such as The White Stripes and Led Zeppelin, Momsen and cohorts rewrite Celebrity Skin ten times and have a whale of a time. The music won’t alienate Paramore fans, and Momsen’s surprisingly low, growly, deadpan voice is very effective. This is at heart a fun, dirty, insincere, cheap-thrill-laden pop record, with the raunch-riffery of Band of Skulls and lyrics which could be drawled from the mouth of a Bret Easton Ellis character. Make Me Wanna Die packs every emo-romantic cliché into its punchy pat structure, and Miss Nothing is three taut minutes of Primark-value Blondie. The album’s opening is a joy, Momsen lighting a cigarette, coughing, and sighing “somebody mixed my medicine” before committing to a feisty Jack White homage. Everything about The Pretty Reckless is a guilty pleasure. You know it’s wrong. But it feels so right.
- - -