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Album Review: The Pretty Reckless Rock Hard With "Light Me Up"

Chelsea Stessel |
February 11, 2011 | 1:30 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

The Pretty Reckless (Interscope)
The Pretty Reckless (Interscope)

Considering her background (Cindy Lou Who in "The Grinch", Jenny Humphrey in "Gossip Girl"), one would assume a band called The Pretty Reckless, fronted by 17 year-old Taylor Momsen, would be filled with empty bubblegum pop lyrics and synthesized dance beats.

However, that is not the case here. This band’s first album, "Light Me Up" (Interscope), runs the gamut of the rock genre, with heavy, shredding guitars, some grunge punk from the 90s and the all-girl rock power of the late 70s.

Momsen's "I don't give a damn" attitude doesn't exactly match the character of Jenny on "Gossip Girl", but instead matches perfectly with The Runaways' Joan Jett and Cherie Currie. Momsen is no pop princess: this album sets her apart from other actresses-turned-singers such as Leighton Meester and Miley Cyrus. Her thigh highs, lace corsets and ripped t-shirts are more closely associated with the likes of Courtney Love and Grace Potter than the teenyboppers her age.

The Pretty Reckless's "Light Me Up" is an authentic rock album. With one of the only young, “popular girls” in rock music today as the centerpiece of the band, this group is unique to today’s Top 40-centered music scene.

Not only is it impressive that Momsen wrote or co-wrote the entire album, but it is always encouraging when an artist’s live performance sounds much like her recording -- Momsen does just that, with no auto tune in sight. Her raspy, sultry voice sounds much older than her 17 years. In most songs, it is full of anger and attitude, but ballads like "Nothing Left to Lose" and "You" show that her voice is versatile.

Though her lyrics are not always the most evolved or sophisticated, they express a clear understanding about various subjects (including love, sex, drugs and rock and roll) that she has not yet fully experienced. Many of the songs talk about self-corruption and destroying the boys who have wronged her by "Laying Him Eight Feet Underground".

The first single, “Make Me Wanna Die,” is full of teenage angst of a desperate love; Momsen sings, “I’ll Never Be Good Enough / You Make Me Wanna Die”.

"Zombie" sounds almost like an anthem from Jenny to all the girls that have wronged her on the Upper East Side, especially in this new season where she is edgier than before. Lines like "Two Thousand Years I've Been Awake / Waiting for the Day to Shake" conveys the idea that she is, in fact, much more mature than her age suggests.

Though Momsen sings about needing to be saved, it's unclear if she does. She seems to be headed in the right direction; this sound works for her.

Her core audience may start off as solely "Gossip Girl" fans, but rest assured, more and more doubters will start taking this young artist seriously.

"Light Me Up" makes it obvious that Little J is not so little anymore.

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