Music Features

Obsessions and Lamentations #9 - Hating Panic at the Disco Edition

Panic at the Disco’s Pretty. Odd. – Worst album of a generation?

I got this album last year after seeing some decent reviews on and favorable comparisons made to Sgt. Pepper, so I thought I’d give it a chance. I was probably thinking I was going to review it for the site, but something stopped me. It’s a little too late to be reviewing it now, but I have some things to say and this is my place to do it. I’m not sure if I hated Pretty. Odd. at first, but I know I didn’t like it much. Now I think it may be the worst album this generation of young bands has produced.

Oh, how it's been so long.
We're so sorry we've been gone.
We were busy writing songs for...

You don't have to worry 'cause we're still the same band.”

So begins this baroque-pop train wreck. And instantly the Sgt. Pepper comparisons seem apt, though on closer inspection we find that instead of introducing us to a fantastical, whimsical marching band, we find the guys apologizing for withholding their glorious presence from their worshipful fans, but promising that great things are in store because after all, “we’re still the same (awesome) band”. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I hear pompous drivel like that on a pop record I begin to lose the will to live. But that short, conceited introduction is just the beginning. Instantly, the band’s oversized ambition totally outstrips their songwriting chops, as instrumental flourish is piled on top of self-conscious chord change, and every cheap Beatle trick in the book is thrown in the air to land where it will. And that’s not all. Brendon Urie’s cloying, stylized vocals are the final nail in the coffin, and guarantee that any redeeming feature of a professionally performed set is ruined utterly. I know, I shouldn’t be expecting much from a band that started out covering Blink-182, but this one was hailed as some kind of minor masterpiece, and, ya know, hope springs eternal. 

The irony here is the thing that sets this apart from the usual awful music you hear on the radio is that the melodies and the tricks are so familiar that they are almost appealing. I think this is why so many reviewers initially fell for it. But repeated listens reveal them to be as gimmicky as the &$#$#@$% harpsichord tone that tinkles through She Had the World, accompanied of course by pizzicato strings for your listening pleasure. Oh, did I mention that “She” won the world “in a carnival”? There is so much awfulness to go around it’s hard to stay on track. It’s the overuse, nay abuse, of these gimmicks that really sets this record apart. Everywhere you turn, a precocious melody is lingering too long, a guitar is playing the same fill you’ve heard a trillion times before, a jaunty piano is begging to be dropped from a 10th story building, and orchestral instruments are filling every crack like bath caulk. The pieces are fine, but put them together without knowing when to stop and the whole is rendered completely incoherent. And so much time is spent imitating what a “baroque-pop masterpiece” is supposed to sound like that any genuine emotion invested in the performances never had a chance. The whole thing sounds not only fake, but empty. 

In short, I actively hate this album. I keep forgetting to take it off my iPod so when one of the songs pops up on shuffle while I’m driving, I’m tempted to drive into a ditch. They take a kind of music I love and drain it of all life and meaning and what is worse, the world outside my window seemed to take it in stride; a totally depressing and isolating thought. I’m listening to it again to write this feature and one phrase keeps popping into my head; Abyssus abyssum invocat.  The abyss calls forth the abyss.