Although I’ve had The Pretty Reckless’ second album, Going to Hell, since it was released on the 18th of March, I’ve held off reviewing it because when I first heard it, I didn’t like it – in fact I can go so far as to say I hated it. But as I loved their debut album, Light Me Up, so much I didn’t want to jump the gun with this one and decided I’d wait and see if the album would grow on me – and it did. Of course, it took until last weekend for me to realise that, but my opinion on the entire album has definitely changed.
When I first heard The Pretty Reckless (henceforth abbreviated to TPR) were releasing a new album, I was pretty damn excited; as stated above, I loved their debut offering and thought it was brilliant. At the time, the two singles they had released off album number two were Going To Hell and Heaven Knows, both of which I absolutely adored – and I thought, if the entire album was going to be in that vein, it was going to be one hell of an album. However, when I first played the album, I sat there with a stunned expression on my face, and unfortunately I wasn’t in awe of how fantastic a follow–up it was to Light Me Up. Quite frankly, I was shocked at how bad it was and at how so much of it sounded the same. With Light Me Up, everything sounded different and it was all catchy – and you also had the amazing, ballad–esque track You, which is one of my favourite TPR songs. Yet it seems like on Going To Hell they decided to utilise the formula of that one track and spin out four more tracks like that – slow melody + Taylor Momsen’s husky voice = instant good track. Except, it didn’t really work like that this time. Generally when you write a song , you want it to stick in people’s minds, and for all the right reasons, but the four main slow track of Going to Hell (consisting of House on a Hill, Blame Me, Burn, and Waiting for a Friend) just become one jumble where you can’t really tell one song from another. Indeed it became so much like that, that I ended up mistaking the chorus of Fucked Up World for that of Goin’ Down, one of my favourite tracks from their first album – and I really couldn’t work out if that was fault on my part for not knowing all the words, or if it was the fault of Momsen and co. for managing to essentially rip off their own song – and I was inclined to (and to an extent, still do) think the latter.
HOWEVER, these were all the thoughts I had when I first heard the album, and as I said, my opinions have most undoubtedly changed. Last week, when House on a Hill came on I was amazed by Momsen’s vocals, and I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t liked it the first time I heard it. So I decided to give the whole album another listen, and I was adamant that I wouldn’t let either my love for Light Me Up or my misgivings on my first listen of Going To Hell get in my way of forming a solid opinion. I was surprised to discover that actually, the album wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I first thought – but why did it have to take me two months to realise that?! Follow Me Down is a cracker of an opening song, and is one I liked from the very beginning. It’s got a brilliantly catchy chorus and in general is just a really addictive song – it’s quite high in my all–time favourite TPR songs. It’s followed up by the title track, Going to Hell, and Heaven Knows which I’ve already said I thought were fantastic, and they’re both still firm favourite, in particular Heaven Knows.
With these quick and up–beat songs out of the way, we’re then treated to the first slow song of the album, House on a Hill. Again, I can’t understand why I disliked it, as it truly is a fantastic song – like Follow Me Down, it’s also high in my list of favourite TPR songs, but is also probably my favourite song off this album. And I’m extremely grateful that a chance listening to this song forced me to rethink my opinion of the entire album, otherwise I’d be firmly sticking to my initial 1–star (2 at a push) review of it. Up next is Sweet Things, which I’m aware some people find quite creepy and truly bizarre – and I can’t deny that it’s true, but despite – or maybe due to – that, I love it. It’s another addictive and catchy song which I often find springing into my head, and whilst the lyrics aren’t exactly what you’d want going round your head in the middle of the night (i.e. “Hey there little girl/Come inside, I’ve got some sweet things/ Put your hair in curls/Paint you up just like a drag queen”), the melody is great. Dear Sister is not something I count as a proper song, due to it only sitting at 55 seconds, but I like it nonetheless. As much as I wish it were longer, I think it is perfect the way it is as otherwise there may have been a risk of it feeling forced.
The seventh song, Absolution, is one I’m still not very sure about. There are some parts of it I really like, but overall it just doesn’t have the catchy beat or addictive quality the others possess, so whilst I don’t skip it when it comes on, it’s also not something I actively seek out to listen to; instead I’m prone to forget all about it. However, it’s successor in the form of Blame Me, more than makes up for any sceptical feelings. It’s the second of the slower songs (I do like how they’re relatively spaced out, rather than clumped together), and although it doesn’t even come close to being as fantastic as House on a Hill, it’s an extremely good song nonetheless and very much worth listening to –it reminds me a little of TPR’s Nothing Left To Lose, from their first album, though I’m not really sure how. Burn follows, and is another pretty short song, though I think due to its slowness it feels longer, and again it’s a very good song, certainly worth a listen.
The next track, Why’d You Bring a Shotgun to the Party?, is one I’m pretty confident I don’t like, and no matter how many times I’ve listened to it, I just can’t bring myself to like it. The start, where Momsen sings “Alone, afraid,” always reminds me of the scene in 2003’s Peter Pan, in which all the children crowd Hook yelling “Old, alone, done for!”, although I do love that film so that reminder isn’t a bad thing – just seems very out of place in a TPR song! Otherwise, though, I really dislike this song. It’s too predictable for me, in particular the chorus: “Why’d you bring a shotgun to the party?/Everybody’s got one, there’s nothing new about it/ Wanna make a statement, you should’ve come without it”. I mean, I can’t be the only one who saw that coming a mile off, and if there’s one thing I hate in songs, it’s predictability. On top of that, the melody is nowhere near as catchy or addictive as it is in their previous songs, so it doesn’t stick in my head. Also, towards the end, you hear a gun being fired, and whilst it does add an effect, it’s just too overpowering. I feel that it’s louder than it necessarily has to be, and it distracts you from listening to the vocals, and to be honest, just annoys me. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t skip the song if it comes on, but it’s not one I’ll seek out to listen to. The penultimate track is Fucked Up World, and although I did used to mistake the chorus for that of Goin’ Down from their debut album, I do love the song. It’s just as catchy as the rest of the album, and I love Momsen’s voice on it; she’s great on everything, of course, but I just really like her here. I feel this would have worked really well as the album’s closing track, but as it turns out… Waiting for a Friend is just phenomenal. It’s the last song, and also the last slow song, and I don’t think I’ve loved a song as much as I do this. I said Momsen’s vocals were really good on Fucked Up World, but they’re simply superb here; she really suits this slow melody and the accompaniment isn’t too over–powering or over the top either, which is a huge bonus. This may sound bizarre, but the song – the tune at least – reminds me a little of Bob Dylan, what with the beginning on the harmonica, with it interspersed throughout the song, and just the plain guitar going on behind her. I have to admit, I’d have been quite interested to due how something between the two of them could have worked out, as I feel her voice in this song would really have complemented his.
Overall, it turns out that not reviewing this album as soon as it was released was definitely in my favour – as of March 18th, this would have a 1–star review from me, maybe 2 at a stretch. However, as I left it for two months before settling down to write it, it’s obvious my view as changed. I’m definitely not going to give the album a full 5–stars, as I don’t think it quite deserves that, and to be honest I’m not overly sure how many stars I do want to give it; I’m thinking 3.5/4 though, which a far cry better than 1.
Do I prefer Going to Hell to Light Me Up? Well as much as Going to Hell has some really stand–out tracks, including Heaven Knows, Fucked up World, and Waiting for a Friend, I don’t think it’s better than its predecessor, mostly because I loved Light Me Up from the moment I first heard it. However, it is certainly a very good album, I won’t doubt that, and I do highly recommend listening to both this and Light Me Up.