Panic! At The Disco

Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die

Written by: TL on 06/10/2013 14:49:09

The drama seemingly never stops for Panic! At The Disco, who were famous before the average age of the members exceeded 20 and before they had even played a show. They have had to kick a bassist, drop an exclamation mark, get cut in half, reclaim an exclamation mark and eventually record a "comeback" album only seven years into their career with 2011's "Vices And Virtues". And just when it seemed the dust had finally begun to settle, as the now trio prepared to tour in support of their fourth album, founding drummer Spencer Smith announced that he had to go to rehab in order to quit an abuse of pills and alcohol.

For the moment then, the burden of pushing new opus "Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die", falls squarely on the shoulders new bassist/synth player Dallon Weekes and the only remaining P!atd constant, singer/guitarist/pianist Brendon Urie. Referencing "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas" with its title, the album is clearly occupied with the decadence of life in the city of sin, which is where Urie grew up - and at the same time it's a playground for the frontman to further explore the crossover territory between the electronic and theatrical pop-punk of the band's beginning and the frontiers of the pop landscape in 2013.

The end product is every bit as eclectic as you can imagine, with results varying in degrees of impact. Leading single "Miss Jackson" goes for a dirty, Maroon 5-ish pop-rock, succeeding all the way up through verse and pre-chorus before falling flat with a chorus repetitively asking "Miss Jackson, are you nasty?" in a way that seems inelegant and uncharacteristic for the band. Second single and album opener "This Is Gospel" is better then, with verses vocoded in the style of the likes of Imogen Heap and Bon Iver and a chorus that, despite its simplicity, surges with an enthusiasm that's contagiously irresistable.

The album has more to offer than just the singles though, and especially "Nicotine" comes on strong with a boisterous riff and beat, a chorus that goes straight to the brain, and lyrics that fit the overall theme of vices dead on. "Casual Affair" also comes off pretty cool with its mix of cello flairs, dubstep beats, reverberating chorus synths and distanced vocals. On the other hand "Vegas Lights" - which is otherwise interesting, sounding like original Panic! colliding with "Hot Fuss"-era The Killers amidst crashing video game music - is ultimately betrayed by unnecessary child choirs and a dud of a non-chorus, while "Girls/Girls/Boys" just rubs me entirely the wrong way with a beat and a bass line that keep reminding me of The Bloodhound Gang.

These details don't hold "Too Weird" back as much, as the pervasive impression that the various Las Vegas-inspired ideas have been left half-baked, often feeling like they were either stretched or cut to fit the simple pop-song formula and no more. Moreover, the same can be said about Urie's otherwise extremely charismatic vocal work, which also feels a bit restrained, almost as if he's been so concerned with sculpting the album's sound, that the vocal melodies and their performance were things done in sort of a left-handed effort afterwards.

"Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die" is a highly mixed experience then. The unabashed, electronic pop-ness of the record will earn it its fair share of detractors (especially among our readership), not to mention that the inconsistency of the hooks makes it far from a perfect pop-record even for listeners open to one such, or that the closing streak of "Far Too Young", "Collar Full" and "The End Of All Things" feels far too pedestrian in any case. Yet the fascinating parts of the record feel unique enough to predict some positive future rediscoveries, even if they don't all reach full potential, and especially if you don't come at it as analytical as a reviewer would, "Too Weird..." is still likely to offer you a solid dose of charm, diversity and catchiness combined.


Download: Nicotine, This Is Gospel, Casual Affair, Vegas Lights
For The Fans Of: Fall Out Boy, Marianas Trench, Maroon 5, The Killers, 30 Seconds To Mars

Release Date 08.10.2013
Decaydance / Fueled By Ramen

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