The Audacity of Panic(!): A Retrospective on Pretty. Odd.

The Audacity of Panic(!): A Retrospective on Pretty. Odd.

[The following piece is an excerpt from Omakase Vol. I, the print-only predecessor to Omakase Magazine. The prompt for Omakase Vol. I was “Write Me A Review.” You would be surprised at the number of things you can write a review about.]  

 Photo from  zararowden  made available under  Creative Commons  // Edited by Omakase Magazine

Photo from zararowden made available under Creative Commons // Edited by Omakase Magazine

Let’s Talk About Panic at the Disco

And no, that wasn’t a typo… I in fact meant Panic at the Disco, not Panic! at the Disco. See, people seem to forget that in 2008 the pop band, signed to Pete Wentzs’ (of Fallout Boy fame) record label, Fueled by Ramen, bartered away many of their trademarks in pursuit of a different musical direction.

Following the gargantuan success of “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies,” from their debut album A Fever You Just Can’t Sweat Out, Panic! at the Disco (as they were at that time) decided to try something different. They traded in their insufferably obnoxious exclamation mark, for two understated periods at the end of their sophomore album Pretty. Odd. (and indeed it was [pretty odd {see what I did there |ed.—nope|}]). Beyond this exchange, they gave up ungodly long song titles lifted from Chuck Palahniuk novels (“The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage” is seriously a fucking name of one of their songs off of their first album [and is also taken directly from the Chuck Palahniuk novel Survivor {I read books sometimes |ed.—again, nope|}]). Most importantly, Panic! at the Disco (soon to be Panic at the Disco) traded in their Vaudevillian themed emo-pop dance jams for something rather ambitious. The newly christened Panic at the Disco invited you imagine an alternate universe where they were The Beatles, and thus created an entirely new sound for themselves, laden with old-timey fuzz pedaled guitars, and stringed and horned orchestrations that would create the texture for their entirely new (albeit completely derivative) sound.

Imitating the sound of the most beloved band of all time? What could possibly go wrong? They even recorded it at Abbey fucking Road, because why wouldn’t they?

The Result

So…was it any good? Well that’s really a matter of personal taste. The people who wanted more mega-hits in the vein of “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies,” (such as label executives, and…well probably the majority of casual music hearers) fucking hated it. Why would you completely turn 180 degrees away from the thing that brought you your initial super stardom and presumably millions of dollars? For those who are inclined to listen to music, rather than hear music (pretentious, but an important distinction) the album was….well…probably exactly what you would imagine. It was as if the band had stumbled into a long-abandoned attic of Beatles B-sides and decided to turn out an album of covers of those songs, but with their own tween emo-pop affectation. It wasn’t revolutionary or even good necessarily, but the album was not without its marked virtues.

The album’s lead single, “Nine in the Afternoon” was a middling hit, that fell well short of the financial success of “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” but I would dare say that it was an endearing song, even with the nonsensical ramblings of the lead singer, Brendan Urie ( “You could, cause you can, so you do”… you don’t say...). I would even say that the album's second single, a complete bust entitled “That Green Gentleman (Things Have Changed),” is a great song that can be easily enjoyed, and both of these songs from Pretty. Odd. have had a much better legacy of love in my heart than the band’s first and most recognizable super-hit.

Beyond this, the album has a lot of interesting idiosyncrasies: you get to hear the guitarist and lead song writer, Ryan Ross, sing on many of the songs in a voice that sounds like someone singing for a high school Shins cover-band, and all the songs have a patent pop aesthetic that makes them charming, even if they are immediately forgettable.

So, was it good? 
Meh.
Was it an improvement?
To me, yes.
Was it fascinating? 
Undeniably.

Why you should appreciate this album

I think anyone who looks at Pretty. Odd. in the proper context will hopefully realize how audacious and ambitious of an album this was, even if the final product was not entirely laudable. I think it takes extraordinary boldness to witness truly amazing success and then decide that you are going to embark on something different simply because it is what you want to do.

I think many times in our own personal and professional lives we make decisions based on what’s expected of us, and what the pressures of security and practicality tell us to do. Here is an instance where a group of people threw caution to the wind, and changed something because it was what felt right to them, regardless of what others wanted from them. We all have to follow our own paths, and change directions when we are called to do so, in the hopes that one day we’ll get it just right.

Epilogue

So what happened to Panic at the Disco, following the release of their out-of-leftfield Beatlemania album? Well as might be evident from a band that completely changes their sound following their very first album, they completely lacked a sense of consensus on the direction that their band should go musically…so they split up. The main song writer, Ryan Ross, and another band member (I’m not gonna bother to look up his name) left to form a 60’s revivalist band called The Young Veins where they could continue to live out their dream of being The Kinks.

Panic at the Disco, yet again became Panic! at the Disco and returned to their aspirations of emo-pop stardom, though they’ve yet to rediscover the pop-music elixir of life that was “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” They have released two albums since Pretty. Odd., and in between those albums the second-to-last original member of the band left the group, leaving only the wailing frontman, Brendan Urie. [Side note: If you are the last remaining original member of a band, (and none of them have died) that is probably a good indicator that most people you meet in life are going to think you are a cunt-face].

So to all of those member(s) who remain and don’t remain, I thank you for your music (even the shitty stuff that I don’t listen to).  Most of all, I thank you for showing me the importance of trying different things when they feel right and the importance of not panicking (with or without exclamation) about the consequences.

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What is Omakase Magazine?

What is Omakase Magazine?