Despite starring in American TV series ‘Gossip Girl,’ front-woman Taylor Momsen proved to her adoring public with The Pretty Reckless’ second studio album, ‘Going to Hell,’ that she was no darling sweetheart, and instead was a force to be reckoned with, tearing down any obstacle that stood in her way. With the release of their third studio album, ‘Who You Selling For?’ The Pretty Reckless have grown up and matured musically, yet Momsen still retains her damaged and melancholic lyrics that she’s loved for.
The opening track, ‘The Walls are Closing In/Hangman,’ starts with a classic, slow piano deceiving the listener into assuming the song will be a relaxed opener to the album. After only a few bars though, the song gradually builds and steadily kicks into the ‘Hangman’ chorus. With lyrics such as, ‘Stand straight/brace your neck/be stronger,’ Momsen is saying that no matter what happens or how low you sink, to always be yourself and be proud of that fact.
The second single off the album and indeed the heaviest song on the set list, ‘Oh My God’ is a track where Momsen reflects on her privileged and perfect upbringing, ‘Oh my God/wish I was black/wish I had soul/and my music attacked.’
The first single is a more stripped back, classic rock and bluesy track about selling your soul to the Devil in return for the power to rock, aptly named ‘Take Me Down.’ ‘Tell me your desire/why you pulled me from the fire...said I want to raise the dead/find a note that I can shred.’ With a little bit of church organ thrown in, TPR have taken the rock ‘n’ roll genre back to its roots in this piece of music history.
‘Prisoner’ is a simple and basic song both musically and lyrically, sounding more like an album filler than a standalone track. The lyrics talk of Momsen’s dislike for the showbiz industry, ‘I’m a prisoner/won’t you set me free/you can have my body/but you can’t have me.’ With numerous memorable songs on the album, this isn’t one of them.
The start of ‘Wild City’ is unlike anything we’ve heard from TPR before, introducing a more modern tasty riff that unfortunately leads into an empty verse with only the abuse of the high-hat and the occasional chug of the guitar. Although seemingly innocent at first, the lyrics are quite dark in nature, speaking of a young girl abandoned in a big city, with links to prostitution. ‘She took too many daddies/took too many home/tryna find the one/someone else’s son/she couldn’t weather those streets alone.’
‘Back to the River’ is yet another song where Momsen expresses her distaste for the limelight, ‘It’s hard to be criminal/when you all know my name...I’m going back to the river/where no one will find me.’ The track has a bluesy and southern rock feel to it with a surprisingly splendid guitar solo closing the song with a speedy tempo change.
When asked what the title track means, ‘Who You Selling For?’ Momsen states that, “For me, it challenges what I’m doing with my life.” The song has a catchy, clean guitar sound to it that compliments Momsen’s voice positively. With lyrics like, ‘Pack my bags/time to fly/don’t be sad/I’m not that high/Who you selling for tonight?’ it confirms Momsen’s statement of realising that you need to do something memorable and meaningful with your life.
‘Bedroom Window’ is a slow, acoustic, mellow and pensive track rolling in at only two minutes and involves some more introspective lyrics about the madness of the public eye. ‘I see all the chaos that’s calling me...it’s all too much for me.’
A turn around to the previous track, ‘Living in the Storm’ is the second heaviest song on the album that could have easily have been on the ‘Going to Hell’ record. Instead of reflecting on her own situation as she typically does, Momsen has instead seen the trauma and dystopia of the world today. ‘There’s something wrong with all of my friends/empty heads and violence I’m trying to pretend...they’re dropping bombs on all of my friends/every time I turn around they’re blowing up again.’
Like ‘Bedroom Window,’ ‘Already Dead’ is a slow and poignant track with lyrics of sorrowful reflection on Momsen’s short-lived youth, ‘I’m cold/already dead.’ Once again there is an amateur guitar solo nestled within the repeated inept drum beat that an adolescent could master.
The same goes for the penultimate track, ‘The Devil’s Back,’ showing minimal musical dexterity with a lengthy 4 minute instrumental to close the song, giving off the sense that the guitar solo is just a way to fill an empty space.
However, TPR revert back to their rock roots for the album finisher and the funky bass line to ‘Mad Love’ is a breath of fresh air. Nevertheless, this upbeat tune is still introspective in lyrical content, ‘All of these voices/debate in my head/one thinks I’m crazy/one thinks I’m dead.’
Although ‘Who You Selling For?’ has some memorable numbers, almost half of them are album fillers and sound like duplicates of the previous tracks. The catchy and indelible songs however are notable and would be worthy of a place on TPR’s previous successful albums.