It’s Rock Day! And sometime while people cared piss-all about rock Taylor Momsen became No. 1…
Josh Langhoff: Taylor Momsen’s vague about which transgressions are sending her to hell. From parsing her band’s very good second album, I’m pretty sure she gave head to Evil Incarnate out in the woods, and then maybe killed a dude. She might be proud of this, but it doesn’t make her feel good. Going to Hell reeks of Catholic guilt like no other album this year, and though Catholics aren’t the only sinners who protest too much (remember when Sufjan thought he was John Wayne Gacy?), they’re the most thorough and physical about it, as though guilt — not matter, energy, chi, or money — constitutes the fabric of the world. That’s why “Fucked Up World” comes as such a release at album’s end: Momsen finally transcends the guilt fabric, not by jamming Jesus down her throat (now there’s a Catholic image!) but by seeing the world clearly and refusing to care. Drummer Jamie Perkins is right there with her, playing the tension — terse snare on every beat like the beginning of “Lump” — that loosens into joyful cascades on the choruses. They sound more earthbound and less cynical than all those scary beardos stalking the Real Rock Radio trash heap. They may or may not light cigarettes with guns.
Megan Harrington: When you think about it, Taylor Momsen and Drake have quite a bit in common.
Thomas Inskeep: “Sex and love and guns, light a cigarette”: yeah, that pretty much sums it up. If Joan Jett circa 1980 appeared today, she’d be fronting this band, playing hard rock that says “You don’t wanna fuck with me, buddy,” while the incessant tambourine roots it in the ’60s, in a good way, an “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” way. Taylor Momsen snarls her way through the song and kicks out the jams on the chorus. This is precisely, absolutely what I want from a rock record in 2014 — or any year, frankly.
Jer Fairall: Gossip Girl star does a surprisingly plausible Joan Jett impersonation. Colour me impressed, though the elder Runaway would have brought this in at a more concise running time.
Alfred Soto: Taylor Momsen’s snarls will get the kudos, rightly, but the organ and rhythms are pretty fucked up too.
Iain Mew: Some of the sloganeering The Pretty Reckless throw at the wall is great fun: “they want to know who did it but the answer’s really us!” “You ain’t getting what you want unless you’re getting it for free!” It’s also worth sticking around for the emphatic thrust back into the song after the instrumental bridge. There are a couple of big problems. First, the production and mixing sounds terrible, right through scuzzy and into muffled. Second, the start of the chorus sounds so much like Garbage’s “Cherry Lips” that it just highlights the waste in not giving this the pop-with-bells-on treatment it’s crying out for.
Anthony Easton: Taylor Momsen wants to be a rock star, but the anthemic quality of this, and how it speeds up after that break around 2:35, is more B-52s and less Joan Jett. It doesn’t get close to the genius of the B-52s being fronted by Joan Jett, but we all can’t hope for miracles.
Jonathan Bogart: The sturdy mechanics of glam as processed through the postgrunge sheen of mid-90s radio rock are generally going to have a baseline appeal to me. This channels any number of post-Hole also-rans, and while I appreciate the attitude I can’t help wondering whether slackerface is really the appropriate model of protest for 2014.
Brad Shoup: I’m pretty sure the definition of glam is “hard rock that neither the performer nor audience takes seriously”, and this judgy little number definitely qualifies. Momsen helms a bone-dry production, punchy and cynical as prime Hole. The clatter in the bridge isn’t weird enough to compensate for a good ol’ solo, though.
Maxwell Cavaseno: Guitars. They have a great thing going for them in the fact that they’re portable and can be used both percussive and melodically. You can’t really carry around pianos, you can’t sing along to your trumpet or flute, and drums are just noise to some people no matter how hard you try. A guitar is kind of like bread. Everybody eats bread, right? Bread is the universal language, more so than the Coca-Cola bottle. Everyone hears a guitar and thinks, “Oh yes, it’s a GUITAR.” They know what that’s supposed to mean. There’s no song here, there’s no meal. It’s just bread. You asked for it, you got it, it’ll do. Bread.
David Sheffieck: The lyrics are dumb as anything — you would literally have to plant a bunch of peppers in the yard to have a more garden-variety form of rebellion. But man, that breakdown just works for me: just unexpected enough, and longer than I would’ve expected, it’s enough to give the song some weight and enough to make me buy in by the time the chorus comes crashing back.
Danilo Bortoli: Writing about “Fucked Up World” means also writing about a favorite subject of mine, something most people call “institutionalised confusion.” When people get confused, or even when an entire society gets confused, words lose their true, unique meaning, leaving people vulnerable to blind relativism. So when I listen to Taylor Momsen talking about (long lost) symbols like “sex and love”, “guns” and lighting cigarettes under a nice, clean guitar riff, figuring out what she’s talking about can be a tricky job. Sex and love have lost both their meanings in the eyes of an eternal revolution. Guns? Well, you know the story. Cigarettes need no further explanation. This whole regression would be unnecessary if “Fucked Up World” could at least transcend its symbols, its center narrative, like great pop music usually does. This leads to the dead song “Fucked Up World” turns out to be: an ode for the misfits and a bunch of lost symbols, when a greater question to be asked would be how we got so messed up. An even greater decision would be to forget about dumb rebellion and revolt (not rebel) anyway.
Katherine St Asaph: The chorus is a shrug because the sentiment is a shrug. Of course it’s a fucked-up world, in a banal way that saps the rebellion out of you. Read the news. (Read the news, at that link, at any point in time; it’ll work.) It is a routine now: I wake up at 7 a.m. to the same then-nu-alt-rock song, not dissimilar to this, then let the fuckery of the first hour of the morning in like pallid sunbeams; take in a news cycle and watch my part of the world react with burnt-out despair to the rest of the world’s innovations in fuckifying itself it worse; after a day of this my energy’s so exhausted it’s a wonder I can even listen to a rocker, let alone be galvanized by it. As such, the Pretty Reckless are best when you let the words shrug off their syntax — “sex ain’t love, and guns light a cigarette,” what’s the diff? — and refuse to hear anything more than glossy, crunchy altpoprock nostalgia that’d be radio-ready 20 years ago. We remember the ’90s because we want to escape back into them.