Angst-filled girl rock has been an important ingredient to the pop landscape since Alanis Morissette bashed an ex in “You Oughta Know.” “Gossip Girl” actress Taylor Momsen makes an attempt at resurrecting that trend with her band, The Pretty Reckless. Its long awaited pop/rock debut, “Light Me Up,” is an unexpectedly gritty treat.
At 17, Momsen co-wrote every song on the album with producer Kato Khandwala and songwriter Ben Phillips. Momsen’s vocals are astounding, full-bodied and tinged with rage and a raspy echo that makes the songs just as successful as the heavy bass and percussion does. The sultry “My Medicine,” an album highlight, is a clever comparison of a lover’s indecisiveness and the confusion one experiences while high on pills.
Momsen growls the lyrics over an unrelenting guitar riff, but nothing compared to the whirlwind shout-fest that is “Miss Nothing.” Lyrics like, “Miss autonomy, miss nowhere, miss androgyny, miss don’t care” make for fast-paced movement through an anthem of individuality.
The most effective song, however, is the pretty “You,” an acoustic ballad so raw and unexpected that it provides a well-needed break from all the buzzing noise. “Light Me Up” bears the downfall of being weighed down by soulless rockers such as “Factory Girl” and “Goin’ Down,” which sacrifice legitimate lyrics for simply acting tough. Overlooking Momsen’s in-your-face attitude, such as telling people to go to hell multiple times throughout the album, “Light Me Up” is a heavy slice of the rock pie that is destined to satisfy the hungry appetites of fans until The Pretty Reckless strikes again with album No. 2.
3.5 out of 4 stars