REVIEW: Panic! At The Disco – ‘Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!’

panic!

Artist: Panic! At the Disco
Album: Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!
Genre: Pop rock

Panic! At the Disco have never been afraid to take a risk. They perfected pop rock with a flair for the dramatic on their breakout debut, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, an album they could have rinsed and repeated at least twice over and been equally successful every time. Instead, they elected for an organic, vintage sound on the follow-up, Pretty. Odd., and further showcased their versatility on Vices & Virtues. With their latest release, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!, the Las Vegas group has once again revamped their sound, this time opting for synth-laden, radio-ready pop rock that feels right at home in the Top 40.

It is apparent from the outset of Too Weird To Live that vocalist Brendan Urie is still Panic! At the Disco’s biggest strength. His knack for pop hooks is as strong as ever, and his smooth delivery shows right through the vocoder and harmonizer in the first verse of “This Is Gospel.” When he belts, “If you love me, let me go,” at the beginning of the chorus, all of the effects drop off, and the result is stunningly huge. It’s a perfect introduction to an album full of sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs pop anthems. Unfortunately, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die! is not that album.

Things start to go wrong on the record’s lead single, “Miss Jackson,” which is brought down by its overly repetitive “are you nasty?” vocal line, and Too Weird To Live hits its low point on “Girl That You Love,” which attempts a dark, subdued vibe but fails to be engaging in any way. Even the album’s upbeat, energetic songs, like “Vegas Lights” and “Nicotine,” end up feeling drawn out and boring. Chalk it up to lack of variation. Sure, the synthesizer sounds change a bit from song to song and infectious bass lines pop up here and there (“Girls/Girls/Boys,” for example), but by the time “Casual Affair” rolls around, I find myself sorely missing the acoustic guitars, bells, string sections, and music boxes that always managed to make their way into past Panic! records. Those organic moments are extremely welcome when they do show up on Too Weird To Live, but they are few and far between. For instance, there is scarcely a guitar to be found on the album until a power chord riff cuts through the programmed drums and keyboards in the bridge of “Collar Full.” It’s a refreshing reminder that Panic! At the Disco is still a rock band, but it leaves lingering the question of whether they still want to be.

I can’t fault Panic! At the Disco for not repeating their past, but for as different as Too Weird To Live is from the rest of their discography, hardly anything about it feels like a risk. This is precisely the record that it makes sense for Panic! At the Disco to write in the age of Some Nights and Save Rock and Roll, but it feels like they’re late to the party and afraid to disrupt it with a big entrance. It’s out of character for Urie and company, who are certainly no strangers to the bombastic and theatrical, and Too Weird To Live would benefit from more of those moments. They nail it on “This Is Gospel” and “Far Too Young To Die,” the latter of which is a surefire high school anthem, and the closing piano ballad, “The End of All Things,” has just the right amount of ache to it, but the rest of the album falls into a repetitive, mundane rut. It’s not too fast or too slow, too quiet or too loud. It’s just there. Urie’s lyrics largely fall into a similar middle ground. They are neither intensely personal nor entirely universal, so it’s hard to find a place to latch onto them as a listener. “Safe” is the best way to describe it, and safe is something a Panic! At the Disco record should never be.

In spite of all its faults, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die! will probably be well received by a lot of people. It will have huge radio hits with the right push – songs that will play at high school dances and through car stereos for the rest of the year, but on the whole, it doesn’t have the flair and confidence that drew me to Fever and Pretty. Odd. It hardly matters what style of music they’re playing – without those traits, it doesn’t feel like Panic! At the Disco.

SCORE: 6/10

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