DiS scampered down to Atlantic Records HQ yesterday afternoon for an almost private audience with the new Panic At The Disco album, Pretty. Odd..
Quite the departure from their A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out debut, the album wears its influences quite proudly on its sleeves – this time out there are definite overtones of The Band, The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Might just be time to shift those emo goalposts again, guys.
Ahead of a DiS interview with the Las Vegas four-piece next week (week beginning March 17), below we bring you a little insight into Pretty. Odd.’s 15 tracks.
1) ‘We’re So Starving’
There’s a tongue, it’s in cheek: “You don’t have to worry / We’re the same band… We’re sorry we were gone / We were writing songs for you”. A crowd cheers and the brief – a minute-something – introduction to the album flows seamlessly into its lead single.
2) ‘Nine In The Afternoon’
Available now, kids. This sophomore’s first standalone cut’s already in wide circulation – click to MySpace to give it the once-over – so there’s little need for details here, save for stating it’s the first example of the band’s embracing of horns and strings, and the first time vocalist Brendon Urie dwells upon imagery of the moon. There will be more of the same later.
Video: ‘Nine In The Afternoon’
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3) ‘She’s A Handsome Woman’
Given a little tidying, this could well be an effort from The Shins. One line in particular – “I wasn’t born to be a skeleton” – can be read as an expression of Panic’s newly fleshed-out sound. If an instrument’s there to be used, chances are it has been on Pretty. Odd.. Other lyrics seem to allude to the media’s need to build bands up before they’ve had the chance to prove themselves – an odd position for a two million-selling act to take? P’haps.
4) ‘Do You Know What I’m Seeing?’
The album’s first effort to be led by an acoustic guitar; strings are now coming to the forefront of the arrangement, and a harmonica adds textures unexplored on A Fever…. This feels like a show tune, almost – evidence enough that the band’s theatrical side is still very much on display.
5) ‘That Green Gentlemen’
“Things are shaping up to be pretty odd,” sings Urie as things do indeed take a turn for the unexpected with another acoustic number. It’s at this point that the first-time listener is alerted to just how dominant the vocalist is on this album – his words are clear, and super-high in the mix. “Everybody gets their way,” he comments towards the tracks end – seems to have been the case for one of four, at least.
6) ‘I Have Friends In Holy Spaces’
There’s a ukulele! Or is it a banjo? No, no – it’s a ukulele. We think. This song is a close cousin of The Maccabees’ ‘Toothpaste Kisses’ in terms of tone, but the vocal’s more confident and there are blasts of brass. Urie’s talking about friends and fakes – no doubt the band have found it hard to tell one from the other these past few years.
7) ‘Northern Downpour’
A big love song with some quite muddled imagery – sincere for sure but ill-articulated at times. The song feels like a merging of a couple of old Smashing Pumpkins numbers; there’s certainly some ‘Lily (My One And Only)’ in there. A sweet number that’s only let down first time through by jumbled analogies.
8) ‘When The Day Met The Night’
The strings – recorded at Abbey Road – make their return. This sounds a lot like The Beatles’ more ‘eastern’ efforts – it’s something to do with the guitar tone but specifics are lost with just one listen to work with. As the title suggests we’re back with moon imagery – could this be some sort of concept album? Unashamedly pop, this song has all the hallmarks of a hit single.
9) ‘Pas De Cheval’
The horns take the lead here, with a Mariachi spring in their step. Urie’s lyrics suffer from over-repetition, but a guitar solo (!) saves the track. Still, first time around this feels like one of the weaker numbers on this second collection.
10) ‘The Piano Knows Something I Don’t Know’
Awkward title aside, this is a pretty assured effort – there’s a little woodwind at work, we think. The song’s full of drama that’ll appeal greatly to fans of the debut, but an truly odd parallel between fancy flowers and our protagonist’s growing hair befuddles. He wants to burn a house like a Trojan horse? Okaaay. Without any idea of the lyrics’ roots, here they seem completely nonsensical. Something for that interview.
11) ‘Behind The Sea’
Everything gets a little Modest Mouse by the end of this song, which is a jolly and simple number that feels refreshing after the preceding metaphor fest. “Play along to marching drums / Boy, did they have fun”. Certainly sounds like it here.
12) ‘Folkin’ Around’
Officially the worst song title you’ll read all year. It opens with a fiddle. Of course it does. Seeped in nostalgia, it’s a tender song from a lyrical angle – young(er) affections recalled. But the instrumentation – no, guys, no. It’s over in less than two minutes, mercifully.
13) ‘She Had The World’
The Panic kids are going to love these lyrics – “She could never win me, because she could never catch me / When I look in her eyes, all I see is the sky”. Slushy nonsense, really, and precisely what Panic’s core fanbase will lap up. Something of a duet, albeit with another guy – a band member? – playing the ‘female’ role. The instrumentation feels like something out of a motion picture depicting the court of a Tudor king. The kiss-off line: “I don’t love you / I’m just passing the time”. Lap it up.
14) ‘From A Mountain In The Middle Of The Cabins’
A piano-led penultimate offering, with strings again presented to the fore. The song’s a neat summary of all that’s preceded it – it’s light, but rich in elements explored elsewhere on Pretty. Odd.. There seems to be a little too much going on – perhaps this one could have done with fewer instruments on it – but it still packs a lyrical punch: “If you’re going to go, then go!” In a minute, Brendon. Patience. The song fades out to the sound of whistling a la ‘Young Folks’.
Video: 'Mad As Rabbits' teaser
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15) ‘Mad As Rabbits’
A forthcoming iTunes single, the album’s closer is another muddle of half-formed imagery, but call-and-response lyrics between Urie and An Other work well. There’s talk of bad habits before an especially abrupt ending. No fade, nothing: the song, and the album (unless you pick up the special edition), just ends.
The verdict? Can wait ‘til the release of the album, on March 24. Click back to DiS that week for our critical take on what will be one of the biggest-selling albums of 2008. Only the small matter of a two million-selling debut to live up to. Pressure, much?
The single ‘Nine In The Afternoon’ is released physically via Fueled By Ramen on March 17. More on Panic At The Disco at MySpace.