Saturday, December 13, 2008

Panic at the Disco- Pretty. Odd., Indeed.

When Panic! at the Disco hit the scene in 2005 with their skin-crawlingly annoying debut A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, they were just another Fueled by Ramen disciple cashing in on Fall Out Boy's success, with the addition of more creative eye makeup and tackier costumes. On their latest album, released in March, the boys made a few changes. One: they listened to Sgt. Pepper. A lot. Two: they began dressing like OK Go. Three: They lost the punctuation in their moniker and added some to the album title.

Pretty. Odd. is pretty odd indeed. It marks a severe departure for the baby-faced quartet. Rather than the abrasive, near-unlistenable emo-pop that marred Fever, this album is packed with sweet grooves, appealing harmonies, and sophisticated pop songs.

Normally, I would never think twice about purchasing a Panic album. I was at a record store when I heard "Northern Downpour" and asked the clerk what the song was. I was shocked, and disgusted at my taste. But then, I listened to the album more, and realized that it was a really solid set of tunes. In fact, if a group on an indie label released it, I'd say they'd have fair success in that realm. Unfortunately, their reputation is quite the turn-off. It took me months to build the courage to buy the album.

I'm glad I did. Tackiness still remains with song titles ("Folkin' Around") but hearing the jangly pop redeems any trace of sleaziness. "When the Day Met the Night," probably the best track of the album, is gorgeously textured with acoustic strums, "Within You Without You"-esque noodling, horn jabs, pulsing strings, and classically-appealing Beach Boys harmonies. Songs like "Day" and the chugging "The Green Gentlemen" showcase Panic's songwriting chops and musical maturity.

By replacing cabaret with 60's-era pop sensibility, Panic at the Disco has found a new lease on life. If they continue to grow like this, they could be one of the few Fueled by Ramen groups to live through the trend.

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