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The Pretty Reckless perform at the Warped Tour Kickoff Party at the Key Club, Sunset Strip, West Hollywood, CA in 2010. (Genie Sanchez/Wikimedia, Creative Commons)
Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll is far from dead. The Pretty Reckless is back after years of touring with their third album. They released the album “Who You Selling For” on Friday, Oct. 21. We were all curious of exactly what this album would be like, considering the huge differences in the three singles released in the months leading up to the big release. The wait is finally over.
“Who You Selling For” has quite a few firsts for the band. It mixes a variety of different genres with hard rock, such as blues, funk and even a bit of country influence. Lead singer Taylor Momsen’s vocals vary from soft to course and angry depending on the song. “Back to the River” can almost be country, with clean vocals and the guitar mimicking a banjo. “Prisoner” and “Already Dead” take roots from blues, while “Wild City” was inspired by NYC and funk music, and is complete with a chorus. The new album is without a doubt the most diverse and mature of all the band’s work to date. Momsen proves that she is clearly no longer a teenager.
For hard-core rock fans and die-hards of the “Going to Hell” album, a few songs may disappoint. A majority of the songs’ tempos are slower and softer than that of their old music.
The album features two songs that are about seven minutes each. The intro song on the album, “The Walls Are Closing In/Hangman,” is six minutes and 36 seconds and “The Devils Back” is seven minutes and six seconds. “The Devils Back” features four minutes of Ben Phillips’ guitar solo. It is definitely a new thing for the band to commit such a time to an instrumental. Phillips states, "We have a preliminary try, which is not to try, and so when something ends up being seven minutes long like The Devil's Back, with something like an instrumental, it's very natural."
The album cover definitely shows this idea of “trying to not try,” as it features a roughly drawn contour of a girl with her head bent toward the ground with her hair covering her face. The artwork is so simple, yet hauntingly beautiful. It is a great reflection of the tracks.
On July 12, Momsen posted the artwork for the first single, “Take Me Down,” on Instagram. The picture appears to show a woman shaking the hand of the devil, which left all of us wondering if we would get a repeat of the last album, titled “Going to Hell.” Since the very first album, when Momsen was only 16, many of her songs hinted towards hell and the devil. This includes the tracks “Follow Me Down,” “Going to Hell,” “Goin’ Down,” “Heaven Knows” and more.
Later, when the single released, it was easy to see that this song was nothing close to “Going to Hell.” The tempo was slower, and featured softer instrumentals. Despite this, Momsen’s signature gravelly voice took the spotlight during the bridge of “Take Me Down” when she repeats the phrase “Sign with the devil.” This connects back to the artwork, which is clearly her handshake, or her deal with the devil.
“Take Me Down” reveals the general theme of “Who You Selling For,” which through the album talks about signing with a label and the complications that come with it. For example, “Oh My God,” the second single, talks about Momsen wanting to go back to when she was “so dumb and so innocent,” and wishing she “could do something smarter than sing.”
Additionally, the title “Who You Selling For” parallels the theme of music business. It seems as if she is questioning the motivations of record labels. Making music should be for happiness, not for fame or money.
Despite this underlying theme of the album, Momsen has never come out and spelled out exactly the meaning of a song or album. What is unique about her music is that she lets her music speak to the audience, and they may translate the songs as they choose. This is a huge benefit for her, as it connects to an extremely wide variety of people.