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Death By Rock And Roll: The Pretty Reckless’ 4th studio album

‘Death by rock and Roll’ is the fourth album by rock band The Pretty Reckless.  Released February 2021, it peaked at number 1 on the UK Rock and Metal Singles and Albums Charts – breaking their previous album release at number 2 with ‘Who You Selling For’ and tieing with their first two albums which also peaked at number 1 with ‘Going To Hell’ and debut album ‘Light Me Up.’ As the first album released with the band’s new label Fearless Records, I don’t think anyone knew exactly what to expect – every album they have released so far had a distinctive sound and tone.

The team at Overtone has mixed opinions when it came to this release, so you’re getting a mix! This is a new structure for Overtone and isn’t something we think will happen often; let us know what you think…

Reviewer A:

The first of the four singles released before the album and the title track itself, starts us off. It opens on a HUGE, awesome guitar riff: big, fast, and heavy. It’s a great way to start the album and straight away I have to point out the insanely good production value; everything can be heard clearly and crisply in the mix. The instrumentation drops out each time Taylor’s powerful low vocals come in throughout the verse, a nice touch that adds some great dynamics. It was, however, almost the exact same melody and feel as one of their old singles, Heaven Knows, which did feel a little cheap. After a couple of times through the chorus kicks in, the guitars sticking mainly to power chords now but a subtle melodic lead part can be heard low in the mix behind it, getting louder towards the end of it. My only issue with it, and with the song as a whole actually, is that it just isn’t catchy. The riff is catchy, as is the verse, but the chorus feels a bit of a cop-out in comparison. It felt like something they put in just because they felt the song needed a vocal chorus. The title of the song is repeated in the verse, for crying out loud, it would have been fine to just go old-school like Sabbath and just have a guitar riff be a chorus. After the second chorus, we get an awesome little part where the riff keeps dropping out leaving room for a few quick drum fills/solos. The guitar solo afterwards was okay too, pretty basic but it fit the song well.  A pretty good start but that chorus left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Reviewer B:

The first track gets its name from the album title ‘Death by Rock and Roll’; this song is the album’s first single and created a lot of buzz and excitement for the tracks that followed. It’s a fantastic opener, breaking into a heavy guitar riff and Taylor’s famously powerful (yet low, chilling and almost mysterious-sounding) vocals that raises the hair on my arms. The instruments purposely drop back on each line which is a nice touch to add some clever dynamics and raise the impact of the chorus. You can immediately hear the quality production value – there is nothing out of balance in the mix. 

Reviewer A:

Next up is ‘Only Love can Save me Now’ (so many long song titles). This one features guest appearances from Pearl Jam’s Matt Cameron and Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil. Straight away Kim leaves his mark, the riff sounding very grungy and Soundgarden-esque; I love it! There is this weird, horribly high-pitched ringing in the background that they put in there for some reason (I paused the track and it stopped so I knew it wasn’t me!). Once I heard it, it was all I could hear, and it was starting to hurt by the time they finally get rid of it in the verse. The grungy feel continues throughout the verse, a simple guitar riff and drumbeat staying behind Taylor’s again low vocals. The tempo stays slow for the chorus but it’s 10x catchier and better than the previous songs, being pretty easy to sing along to, usually a good indicator that it’ll go down well live. We get another guitar solo, this one again better than the previous one, although it maybe overdoes it with the wah and distortion just a little. I enjoyed this a lot more than the previous one and feel like it would have maybe made for a better lead single. Playlisted.

Reviewer B:

Another track on the album, ‘Only Love Can Save Me Now’, features guest appearances from rock legends Matt Cameron, Pearl Jam, and Kim Thayil, Soundgarden. Kim immediately puts his stance on the song with the grungy guitar effect which lasts throughout the whole track and obviously influences the grungy way Taylor sings during the verses. A highlight for me is Taylor’s overdubbing and layered harmonies, especially during the chorus. It’s definitely a track I can picture being performed live with the audience getting involved. The guitar solo is where Cameron steps into the spotlight with the wah-wah, distorted sound which sounds out on the album. Although we get to hear more solos, there isn’t another with a grunge sound quite like this one. If you haven’t already, check out the music video – I’m here for the water aesthetics. 

Reviewer A:

The next song, ‘And So It Went’, features another guest artist, this time from one of the best and most interesting guitarists ever, Tom Morello. Opening on a solo, awesome guitar riff before it explodes into its heavy, distorted evolution sounds awesome and so far, the band is three for three with damn good riffs. The stripped-back opening riff continues through the first half of the verse and for a few seconds I love it. The key change for the second half wasn’t for me, however. I’m usually a big fan of them if they are done right (Livin’ on a Prayer, of course), but this felt awkward and out of place. Especially when they drop it back down again immediately afterwards. The dropped-down, stripped-back choruses were an interesting touch that I’m still trying to wrap my head around, to little avail. They sound good on their own, but are a very strange choice for a chorus and make the song sound even messier than it already was. The second chorus builds up to an even further stripped-back part too, another odd choice to goad the listener into thinking there’ll be a great riff or drop . Instead, it leads into some ‘Aqualung’-style vocals and clean guitar. At least after that we finally get a crazy guitar solo from Morello, just as odd and technically incredible as some of his best. Then, we get to maybe my most hated part of the song for me. Why does any band ever have the thought that kids chanting sounds good on a rock song? Manson barely pulled it off. Faith No More did it as an ironic joke. That’s it. All others, be it Pink Floyd, Bring Me The Horizon or now Pretty Reckless (TWICE) do it badly. Stop it guys, please. I can’t even keep talking about this song anymore. Outside of the solo and at a push the riff it is not good. Another bad choice for a single.

Reviewer B:

The third and final track with a guest appearance is ‘And So It Went’ with Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave and Prophets of Rage.) The first three opening tracks are definitely the heaviest on the album, with a major grunge-rock vibe similar to some songs on ‘Going To Hell.’ Building on a heavy riff before the track explodes, you already know this is one the crowd will be bouncing to – myself included. The eerie break in the middle and chants by children is very typical of The Pretty Reckless – both traits reminding me of songs like ‘Heaven Knows’, ‘Follow Me Down’ and ‘Bedroom Window.’ Not everyone is a fan of this style but for me it adds to the inclusiveness of the track and invites everyone to sing along. Everyone likes a rock chant to fist pump to, right?

Reviewer A:

‘25’ starts slow and quiet; a nice clean guitar riff and a simple drumbeat behind Taylor’s higher vocals. The chorus drops into a pretty heavy riff as the vocals ramp up, catchy and soaring and easily the best chorus so far. It’s short and sweet, soon dropping back down into the lower verse, this time with some added beautiful strings in the back. I love the slow, brooding, moody feel to this; it’s honestly shocking that the same band can write a song of this quality AND the last one. It goes into a slightly out-of-place ‘21 Pilots’’ ‘Ode to Sleep’-style part, all happy and bouncy and piano-y for a little bit, pulling out of the brooding mood a little bit. It soon gets back to the slower, moodier stuff that this song does so well; the final chorus leading to a long, great outro where each part slowly drops out one by one. This is my favourite song on the album by quite a margin so far, despite the questionable quality of the lyrics. Playlisted.

Reviewer B:

I could be the only one thinking this, but ‘25’ sounds like a heavy James Bond theme song to me. The low vocals perfectly match the eerie strings and scream seductive spy-thriller. Like the review above states, the short and sweet but powerful chorus bursts out before dropping back into the catchy and mysterious-sounding verse. Again, the slow and broody feel makes it feels like a dramatic movie opener. The occasional controlled screams combined with the soft vocal delay works together extremely well. It’s different to the first few grungy songs without taking away from the feel from the whole album.

Reviewer A:

Both ‘My Bones’ and ‘Got So High’ are more typical TPR songs. My Bones is heavy and brooding in the best possible ways, another slow, brooding track full of palm-muted guitars, soaring vocals through the chorus and even a close-to-thrash riff that carries the song through the second half. Oh, and the riff after that is somehow even heavier, making everything feel grandiose and epic.

‘Got So High’ is the complete opposite. It’s a slow, acoustic song that is very centered around Taylor. It reminds me of another of their songs and one of my favourites from them, ‘You’. The vocals are softer here and beautiful, some of them reminding me a little of the style that Layne Staley used to go for during his choruses. It also gives off a lot of American Indie vibes, especially during the choruses. I feared a little in the middle that it was building up to something different but thankfully they kept it as the stripped-back ballad. Both of these songs immediately made the playlist and are easily two of the best songs on the album by a large margin.

Reviewer B:

‘My Bones’ has a repetitive punch to it until around halfway through; the guitar riff and low, softer vocals (before the power note of course) remind me of ‘Sweet Things’ from ‘Going To Hell’ – The Pretty Reckless regularly use Taylor’s ability to create an eerie suspense to their advantage and give the song a whole new feel.

’Got So High’ takes me back to the band’s debut album with tracks like ‘You’ and ‘Nothing Left To Lose.’ I could easily sit back and get lost in this song. The lyrics are beautifully vulnerable and therefore makes this a stand-out track on the album for me.

The whole 38 seconds we get of ‘Broomsticks’ is a typical feature of The Pretty Reckless: ‘Dear Sister’, ‘Burn’ and arguably ‘Bedroom Window.’ The sinister “stepping stone” track is a cool transition song designed to sound uncanny before the punch of the next track.

Reviewer A:

‘Witches Burn’ opens on an awesome classic rock-inspired guitar riff, like a moody Boston or AC/DC. It keeps up the old-school feel through the verse with a similar guitar riff and a basic drum beat backing some more… interesting… lyrics from Taylor. The chorus is again good and catchy, keeping the simple feel to it like the rest of the song has, not overdoing it with another big chorus. The solo is maybe the most enjoyable on the album, simple but full of emotion, and fits the tone and style of the song perfectly. It heads out of that into a final extended chorus to close things out, with some very odd, very quiet soloing if you strain your ears hard to hear it (why was it so quiet?) before the song does the cardinal sin of fading out. Another good song on an album that so far has only had a couple of bad singles.

Reviewer B:

I agree that ‘Witches Burn’ gives me AC/DC vibes – which I’m not complaining about in the slightest. The steady drum beat and classic guitar riff is one you immediately nod your head to. The whole track is catchy; the lyrics aren’t a shock to me – the band have a history of leaning on the other-world, supernatural vibe. The combination of the classic rock sound with the band’s own ghostly lyric style works for me. It would have been nice to hear the track finish off nicely but I guess I’ll have to wait and see how they do it live for an answer.

Reviewer A:

‘Standing at the Wall’ is another slow acoustic ballad. It is a good, beautiful song, but is pretty similar to ‘Got so High’ and is ever so slightly worse in my opinion. I loved her vocal melody following the guitar one during the verses and the tone and mood are both fantastic for it, fitting perfectly to the lyrics. The second half when the drums and strings come in too only makes it feel even more epic, a really great rock ballad.

Reviewer B:

Similar to Reviewer A, this track makes a great acoustic track but I wouldn’t say it’s worse than ‘Got So High.’ Both tracks reveal a vulnerable side to the album and it becomes a stellar soft rock ballad with the build up.

Reviewer A:

‘Turning Gold’ is okay but at this point, it is nothing new on the album. Some good hooks and it has a good chorus, but nothing on it really stands out. That is especially annoying after how good the last song was.

The same can be said for the final two songs, ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ and ‘Harley Darling’. Outside of the slight country twang to them they’re just two more slow, ballad-y rock songs. Both are still good songs, don’t get me wrong, but on an album with a couple of very good slow songs they both get lost in the shuffle a little bit. It also feels so weird to end a hard rock album with FOUR slow songs. It very quickly turned into a soft rock album after ‘Witches Burn’, something like Bryan Adams or Ted Nugent. It’s not bad at all, but when the first few songs on the album had such incredible, heavy riffs in them and then there isn’t a single one to be found during the last two-thirds of the album it feels a little badly arranged. Even though the softer stuff is far better, in my opinion, it would have been nicer to spread it all out a little more!

Reviewer B:

As the last heavier track on the album, ‘Turning Gold’ is another powerful and catchy song but for me it doesn’t sound repetitive. The first three tracks of ‘Death By Rock And Roll’ all have the grunge vibe but ‘Turning Gold’ doesn’t. Yes, the instruments are lower in the mix whilst Taylor is the main focus, but the sound and impact of the chorus hits differently.

‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ reminds me of ‘Here’s To Us’ by Halestorm and is a song I can imagine being played towards the end of the set as the audience wave their lighters; I like that it’s structured towards the end of the album as that’s how I picture it for a live concert. References to the passing of music legends in the 27 Club makes it even more significant. Taylor Momsen has arguably used some songs on this album as a lyrical diary – something I would love to ask her about personally one day.

‘Harley Darling’ has a country twang with the use of the harmonica – not something that I can recall being used in any other The Pretty Reckless track? Another softer tribute track to the band’s departed friend that I enjoyed and got lost in.

Reviewer A:

Overall: I enjoyed this album more than I thought I would. There were definitely some issues, but there was a lot of really great stuff too, especially the slower songs. For the first album by them I have listened to from front to back in one sitting, I maybe could have picked a better one. From what I have heard I believe their last album, ‘Who You Selling For’, was more consistent in its quality. However, it was still a good rock album that had more than a couple of songs that I will find myself listening to over and over. Good stuff!

The Score: 7/10

Reviewer B:

I can’t get enough of The Pretty Reckless and everything they release. Their sound is like no band – going from the the grunge and eerie to vulnerable ballads. It’s unparalleled. If they’re not creating rock hits, they’re producing other stellar, hearty tracks like ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ and ‘Back To The River’ – you can’t complain.

So after reading our opinions, the question is: what’s yours? Let us know on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter who you agree with!