The Pretty Reckless

Going to Hell

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Rebellion is part and parcel of rock & roll, but few rockers have had it harder than Taylor Momsen. A child star who appeared in Ron Howard's grotesque 2000 adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and came to stardom as Jenny Humphrey in the 2000s series Gossip Girl, Momsen needed to work hard to be considered on her own merits, something that was especially difficult because she specialized in an overdriven '90s grunge showcased in MTV's forgotten mid-decade show SuperRock. Momsen worships at the altar of Courtney Love but doesn't quite care to push buttons; she rebels in a vacuum, pushing the buttons of parents who came of age in the '50s. That's part of the charm of the Pretty Reckless: they fight battles long since settled but they believe it, man, and they're ready to rebel in a time-honored tradition they've learned through retrospectives and word of mouth myths. The saving grace of the Pretty Reckless, especially on Going to Hell, which is way better than their 2010 debut Light Me Up, is that they act as if these long-settled battles are still fresh, so they rail against the dying of the light with overdriven amps and stadium chants as they stumble into quite good bubblegum grunge hooks. It's hard to think of this as music that belongs to 2014 -- it's rooted in the '90s and doesn't want to move beyond it -- but there's nevertheless a twitchy teen rebellion that fuels the whole enterprise, and that's why Going to Hell works: the group may be following a blueprint, but they believe they're following their own course, and that conviction is convincing.

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