Two years after the release of its last studio album, Panic! at the Disco is back with more eccentricities than ever, ready to delight eardrums with its modern disco in its latest album, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!, in addition to adapting new personas for themselves. Long gone are the days of top hats and red conductor coats — the boys are now dressed in slick, lavish suits and return with its never-ending energy and enthusiasm.
Best known for their 2006 hit single, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” off of the band’s debut album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, Panic! shot into rapid fame, exciting the teenage population with its theatrics, witty lyrics and boyish charm. Fresh out of high school, the boys’ creativity in its costuming and concepts led to their rise in popularity. But even with the band’s success, the band has had their fair share of drama with a fallout between members, temporarily dropping the exclamation mark from the band’s name and a brief hiatus. Also, it would be better if everyone pretended Pretty. Odd. never happened.
Regardless, the band bounced back in 2011, with a new lineup sans two of the original members, exclamation mark reinstated and its single “Ready To Go” with its third album, Vices & Virtues. To many fans’ delight, the album was reminiscent of the band’s original sound.
As for the band’s latest album, the two new singles, “This Is Gospel” and “Miss Jackson” (also the first two tracks on the album), begin the narrative by stripping down to raw vocals and overpowering drum lines, casting away the theatricality that was once a specialty of the Las Vegas natives. The songs sound darker and heavier than ones usually associated with the band, though they still retaining a slight upbeat feeling.
The rest of the songs on the album sound like an experiment between disco-inspired techno and alternative pop rock, while still maintaining the band’s signature strong vocals. As odd as it sounds, it works well on both “Vegas Lights” and “Collar Full.” The tracks have a definite foot-tapping and head-nodding quality about them.
Then comes “Girl That You Love,” a dark track that puts listeners on the edge of their seats with a sense of slight discomfort. An eerie, vocoder-like voice spouts lyrics such as, “Drop every pretense / Drown every sense you own / For the girl that you love,” as cheesy Rick Astley-esque drums and percussion play under them. The retro feel of the track falls flat and the song fails to impress, lacking the usual lyrical sophistication because of its repetitive chorus.
Another weaker point on the album is “Girls/Girls/Boys,” which lightly touches on a character’s struggle with being bisexual. The bisexual character is portrayed through a straight man’s perspective, who tries to help his bisexual female friend keep her sexuality private. Lead singer Brendon Urie croons “love is not a choice” and “… you’ve gotta save your reputation / They’re close to finding out about your girlfriend.” Though the lyrics portray a lack of awareness about bisexuality through the male character’s perspective (reminiscent of tracks from Fever), the song itself has a lackluster melody and is not up to par with the rest of the album.
What the album lacks in some songs, it definitely makes up for in others. “Casual Affair” brings in a fresh track that sounds like an electronic version of Marilyn Manson meeting a dramatic string ensemble (if such a crossover were ever to exist) and is absolutely smashing. “Nicotine” creates a fixation “worse than nicotine” in the form of a club banger. With its explosive vocals and insane house beats, as well as catchy hooks and powerful guitar riffs, listeners will find it hard to sit still through the track. “The End Of All Things,” the last track on the album, is a soft ballad that sends a chill down your spine, yet manages to wrap up the intensity of the album with a calming melody.
Despite being a short, 10-track album, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare to Die! transports listeners into the world of electro pop-rock and provides an energetic listening experience. Filled with prominent drum lines, heavy guitar riffs and catchy synths, the album definitely feels different from their past work, yet still manages to retain the pizzazz Panic! is known for. With an album titled Too Weird To Live, Too Rare to Die!, expecting the unexpected is the only way to go while listening to this one.
Follow Razan on Twitter @FunkehRara