If there’s anything to be said about Panic! At The Disco it’s that they aren’t afraid to try new things. Each of their three records up to this point have sounded drastically different. But you know what, they probably don’t really care which one you like more or why. With that in mind, the band’s fourth record, the long-titled Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die, takes yet another step away from previous material.
Demographically, this record sort of sounds like the band started down a similar path of Vices and Virtues before quickly veering down a more dance/dubstep inspired path (Side note: this is where I apologize if I am an idiot – I do not listen to dubstep, so I am only speculating that some of the instrumentation is dubstep-influenced). The explanation for this path reasoning comes very early with singles “This Is Gospel” and “Miss Jackson.” Both of these tracks basically take the pop sensibilities of Vices – I’m looking at tracks like “Memories” and “Ready To Go” – and pick up where they left off. “Whoa-oh-ohs,” repetition, and bombastic choruses start this record off on a note of addictive pop tunes.
As the third track starts up, this is where the road probably took a turn – but it was in no way for the worst. “Vegas Lights” is laced with a gritty synth vibe in a club that is populated with a massive chorus and electronic tendencies. Frontman Brendon Urie brings the entire track to life with the help of that vibrating synth and Spencer Smith’s foot-tapping drums. This is what they would probably call a club banger (something like that).
While at its core Too Weird is a pop record, it is a very dark one at that. Eerie keys make you uncertain of where “Nicotine” is headed once it gets going. Despite being a very dark track at heart – the twinkly keys, pace-setting drums, and sneaky guitar lines – the chorus is still one of the strongest on the record. While even the chorus of “You’re worse than nicotine” is cast in a dark shadow, Panic! manage to leave it stuck in your head all day – something that is very tricky for most pop bands to do with darker-toned tracks.
The only misstep down the path comes with “Girl That You Love,” when even the buzzing and menacing synth line layering the entire track can’t lift it out of the depths of the ocean. Thankfully, the spacey “Casual Affair” later makes another attempt at this and does so with massive success. A trippy synth and drum beat dance in the darkness with Urie’s equally foreboding vocals. A track about an affair, the ominous atmosphere and sleazy instrumentation make no attempt to mask the darkness – rather, the track basks in the darkness of an affair in a way that comes across as almost bad boy meets bad girl-like sexy. Yeah, something like that.
While it may all sound moonlit rather than sun-soaked, have no fear, because “Collar Full” has one last burst of sunlight – or perhaps the first glimpse of it. An airy drum beat flutters in the background (already a change in scenery) and then the chorus of “Show me your love” basks in a ray of sunlight that is an upbeat and dance-fueled synth. The track is quite the change from what has led up to it, but it’s a breath of fresh air, so to speak – a light amongst darkness. In fact, the penultimate track being so buoyant makes the antithesis that is “The End Of All Things” even more effective and poignant. Whereas on “Collar Full” Urie crooned, “Show me you love,” here he’s alone in a dimly lit room with a calming piano, hypnotically singing, “We’re in love,” in a spotlight. This pair of opposites becomes an ending of beauty, making the final track standout considerably more than if the penultimate number was just as tragic and sensitive.
Clearly, this record has a lot going for it. As you have hopefully already realized, Panic! At The Disco don’t really believe in making the same record twice, something that deserves every compliment – even if you don’t enjoy some of their material. With their fourth record, the band further expands its area of expertise, this time dabbling with something like a dark dance pop genre. While both this genre I just made up and this record may not be what is expected from them, it has resulted in one of their finest pieces of work to date for Panic! At The Disco. The different moods and soundscapes take awhile to digest and let sink in, but every trip back to the dim dance floor has your feet leaving the disco with fresh moves and new accolades.