During the 9 years since their formation, it has often felt as if every other Panic! At The Disco album has left them with a band member short and half the appeal they had previously. Admittedly, their debut album ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’ was a hard opening act to follow but they’ve struggled on through their woes and made it, against all odds, to album number four: ‘Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!’
Their line-up has only changed once prior to drummer Spencer Smith’s recent voluntary hiatus to the band, but I simply can’t shake the feeling that Panic! just isn’t the same band it used to be – in more ways than just that frontman Brendon Urie remains the only common denominator at this point.
Regardless, ‘Too Weird To Live…’ stands alone from the band’s previous efforts in many ways, so perhaps that’s a positive. While it’s been relatively obvious that Panic! At The Disco have been shamelessly mimicking Fall Out Boy’s marketing ploys this year (dropping a single out of nowhere is so last February), their musical direction hasn’t been much of a stones’ throw away either. Could this be influence from mutual producer Butch Walker? Who knows.
All I know is that, musically, Panic! At The Disco pulled it off far better than Fall Out Boy did in the end. Having always been on the quirkier, more eccentric side of things, the band once crowned the Kings of Emo has now transformed into something equally as contemporary and infectious but completely different all at once.
Album opener ‘This Is Gospel’ – second single released ahead of the album itself – somehow becomes more and more addictive with every play, which is impressive considering the fact it was never a grower to begin with and more like love at first sight. ‘This is Gospel’ acts as a safety net, guiding you into the world of electronica. Synthesisers are hardly new and exciting revelations for Panic! At The Disco, however it’s not just about the use of computers and other musical gizmos that makes this record different. It’s more about the direction.
Said direction is made abundantly clear with track number two, ‘Miss Jackson’ – the unfortunate bombshell that was dropped upon us all. As far as first singles go, there couldn’t have been a worse example of their new venture than this song. By far the least inspiring of the whole album, ‘Miss Jackson’ is lyrically bland and is pretty much mainstream pop fodder.
With a stroke of luck however, we’re given another slice of electro goodness with following song ‘Vegas Lights’. A lovely likeness to their first album in a way that reminds me of song ‘Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for Snacks’, it’s what we know and love from Panic! but with more of a modern pop edge. This is the sort of song I wish I heard in clubs and bars these days but sadly never will.
‘Girl You Love’ is like the bizarre but glorious 80s lovechild of New Order, Gary Numan and Human League. Much like that analogy itself, I still can’t quite get my head around this song, but strangely it is completely lovable if you’re a sucker for the 80s like I am.
‘Nicotine’ is upbeat, sexy and full of the sort of metaphors you’ll struggle to forget. Lyrically it’s the catchiest on the album and has that same sharpness and hint of hostility that we’ve seen from Panic! before and it works well along with the strong guitar riff.
Another distinctly 80s sound is present in ‘Girls/Girls/Boys’ but is this time infused with the same hormone fuelled passion and vigour that Panic! have become famous for in the past with songs such as ‘Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off’. It’s a song exploring the depths of human sexuality and is an interesting, and largely enjoyable song. Similarly, ‘Casual Affair’ is an insight into sex, lust and infidelity with a heavily dark feel, meaning the two tracks lead into one another wonderfully, however contrasting the tones may be.
‘Far Too Young To Die’ has more of a fresh sound when it comes to Panic! and I find very difficult to compare to anything they’ve done previously. It feels much like an inner rambling or an outpouring of emotions which has a clear sense of vulnerability, but as far as the rest of the album goes I think it’s slightly subpar.
If Electro and Pop Punk had a genre baby together, ‘Collar Full’ would be its beautiful offspring. It has all of the energy of a classic noughties Jimmy Eat World song but with a modern sprinkling of electronica to make it unmistakably theirs.
As we find ourselves at the final track on Panic! At The Disco’s latest and fourth album, we slow it down a little with ‘The End of All Things’. As the title suggests, it’s a significantly more morose song with some stunning piano and strings just to guarantee the goosebumps are induced on cue. Think part Panic!, part Imogen Heap and you’re 100% there. It’s a simply haunting closing track and I think it rounds off the album in a way that no other album they’ve released has.
What surprised me about this album was that it was completely rounded and solid. It has an element or two from each previous album that when combined creates something wholesome and refreshing. I didn’t expect that from this album after hearing ‘Miss Jackson’ for the first time. It’s clever of them when you think about it really – releasing possibly the worst and most obscure track first. Well, it certainly was a surprise, but an incredibly pleasant one at that. Thanks for enduring the bad times and sticking it out Panic! because I’m so glad this album is now in my life.