Chances are, you’ve seen a deep-fried screenshot of an old Tumblr textpost imparting the knowledge that Cindy Lou Who from (MILF-Christine-Baranski-featuring) How the Grinch Stole Christmas or Jenny from Gossip Girl is now in an actual real-life rock band. You’ve probably seen that strange washed-out picture of a young Justin Bieber with a pale, white-haired Gothic woman in black stockings and a lot of eyeliner, or the Nike ad where a blonde model parkours away from paparazzi. What these odd cultural jigsaw-pieces fail to communicate is that Taylor Momsen, the child actress/model/ghostly vision in question, and her band, The Pretty Reckless, are genuinely, astoundingly great.
The Pretty Reckless first shot to fame with their debut single, ‘Make Me Wanna Die’, which screamed their arrival on the scene over the end credits of 2010’s Kick Ass. Their following album, Light Me Up, provided us with all the furious angst a teenager needs to get through high school and all the raw talent to allow them to fully hold up to the cynical scrutiny of a world-weary twenty-year-old such as myself (a feat only otherwise achieved by the legends My Chemical Romance. Sorry Fall Out Boy). Light Me Up was so crammed full of bangers that, sadly, The Pretty Reckless weren’t able to fit them all into their latest Glasgow gig (I’m still mourning at being unable to hear ‘Miss Nothing’ in the flesh). And what a gig it was.
The iconic Barrowland Ballroom can present a daunting stage, adorned with so many decades of music history, but The Pretty Reckless certainly didn’t disappoint. From the moment they took the stage, the venue was theirs, the spring-floorboards bouncing with Jamie Perkins’ insane drumming skills (exemplified in a lengthy drum solo so impressive I was exhausted just watching him), the combined power of Ben Phillips’ guitar and Mark Damon’s bass filling the ballroom up to the star-spangled rafters. And as for Momsen herself, she quite literally made the stage her own, leaping onto speakers, clambering onto the drum kit, and traversing its length with an out-stretched microphone to rile the crowd up into a back-and-forth Mexican wave of cheers. The Pretty Reckless broke boundaries for women in rock, becoming the first female-fronted act to have seven number one singles on the Billboard Rock Radio Chart, and as they take to the stage, it’s not hard to see why. From the sinister fairy-tale turn of 2014’s ‘Sweet Things’ and 2021’s ‘Witches Burn’, to 2016’s take on soul-selling and devil mythos, ‘Take Me Down’, The Pretty Reckless know how to tell a story. And god, do they love telling it: Momsen delightedly thanks us for enabling her and the band to do what they love, inviting us all to join the band for the night, encouraging the crowd to sing along with 2014’s ‘Heaven Knows’. Unfortunately, this was the point in which the gig experience was brought down for us: the crowd. We have never in our combined gig-going lives been let down by a Glasgow crowd, but The Pretty Reckless have long struggled with being heavy enough to feel cool but accessible enough to be played on the radio, and it showed in the audience. The crowd enthusiastically threw up devil signs and sang about going to hell, but when I looked around that room, most of them looked as if they were too scared to ask for extra ketchup at a restaurant, leading to a strange whiplash as we turned from Momsen’s erratic yet effortless stage presence and Perkins’ energising drumming to a bafflingly-still crowd of unmoving faces (never fear, QMUnicate, we didn’t let you down: we pioneered the two-man mosh-pit that night). We found ourselves embarrassed on behalf of the city, that we had a band as brilliant, fun, and danceable as The Pretty Reckless and didn’t give them the wild reception they deserved. If, somehow, you’re reading this Taylor, sorry. Come back and I promise I’ll punch Rynn in the face in the front row.
But there’s a chance for redemption here, Glasgow. The Pretty Reckless’ upcoming project, Other Worlds, is set to explore new ground, reworking previous Pretty Reckless hits or providing their own take on other famous songs. Their single-releases include an electronic-inspired remix of their deliciously mournful ‘Got So High’, and a beautifully moving acoustic cover of ‘Harley Darling’, their 2021 tribute to sound engineer Kato Khandwala, who passed away in a motorcycle accident in 2018. Other Worlds drops on the 4th November. Help us prove to The Pretty Reckless that Glasgow’s miles better (than a dodgy gig crowd) and give it a listen. Give us the redemption arc former-emo Weegies everywhere deserve. We really want them to come back.
Rynn Chowdhry [she/they] and Malice McWhinnie
[Image credit: Theculturednerd.org]