CD Review of Pretty. Odd. by Panic at the Disco
Recommended if you like
The Feeling, Jellyfish, ELO
Decaydance/Fueled by Ramen/Atlantic
Panic at the Disco:
Pretty. Odd.

Reviewed by David Medsker


here is a case study to be made of Panic at the Disco’s remarkable transformation from wordy emo dorks to classic pop fetishists. Music critics wanted to punch them in the face for their song titles alone. (“There’s a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought of It Yet,” gawd.) Suddenly, they’re worshiping at the altar of Jeff Lynne and the Beatles. Did they always plan on making this kind of music? If so, why the hell didn’t they do this from the very beginning?

That is where the case study would get interesting. This writer’s personal theory is that if Panic had gone the grandiose pop rock route from day one, they wouldn’t have sold any records. The band, of course, knew this, so they chose to make a trendy debut record, stuffing it to the gills with words, words, and more words (you know, so they could share their feelings…and rope in some female fans). Then, once they had built a following, they came out of the power pop closet. It’s not a bad strategy, really; girls just don’t like power pop, and no straight man forms a band to attract male groupies. So they rope the girls in first (bait), then make the record they wanted to make all along (switch). It’s genius, really.

Panic at the Disco

So this, as far as we know, is the real Panic at the Disco, and God help them if they ever decide to go back to being wordy emo dorks. Pretty. Odd – they appear to have moved the awkward punctuation out of their band name and into their album titles – is as massive as pop records get these days, trading overstuffed verses for unabashed melodrama. Fans of Jellyfish’s Spilt Milk and the Feeling’s Twelve Stops and Home are going to lap this up like kittens under a cow udder.

Someone in Panic at the Disco has a copy of Tears for Fears’ Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, because the alarm clock/piano intro to lead single “Nine in the Afternoon” is straight from that album’s title track. Still, Tears for Fears has made some of the best Beatles records of all time, so if you’re going to borrow from someone, that’s a pretty good place to start. The next single will surely be “When the Day Met the Night,” a sunny pop extravaganza that merges a Jellyfish verse with a Beach Boys chorus. And lest you think that Pretty. Odd is all Lennon/McCartney all the time, witness the bouncy, minor-key “Do You Know What I’m Seeing?” and ”Folkin’ Around,” a two-minute bluegrass bit that playfully cribs a melody from CCR’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.”

Tears for Fears. CCR. Jellyfish. The Beatles. The Beach Boys. You get the idea here. Panic at the Disco is thinking big, Michael Bay big, which is different than the ornate decoration of their previous work. There is a difference between busy and complex, and Panic finally – thankfully – figured that out on Pretty. Odd. Bravo, gentlemen.

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