When Panic! At The Disco first arrived with their immensely impressive debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, many of their song titles were even longer than the title of this album. My favorite tunes from that record were “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom And Suicide Is Press Coverage” and “Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off.” I recall at least one critic calling them “literary rock” because they were such clever lyricists and, obviously, loved their words. It’s been eight years since they released that emo/pop punk/pop rock masterpiece and now they’re back with their fourth record, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die.
There have been a lot of line-up changes over the years, but Panic! vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith are at the top of their game here, delivering some of their best tunes to date on an album that easily rivals their debut, which, until now, I would have said is their best album. Now, well, let’s just say this album is tied with it.
Everyone is calling Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die! Panic!’s Vegas album — Vegas being where they spent most of their teenage years — and it’s fitting because most of the songs on the album glow like bright, blinding, neon signs. A perfect example of this would be the third song on the album, which is actually a shiny, synthy, danceable gem called “The Vegas Lights.” “The Vegas lights / Where villains spend the weekend / The deep end / We’re swimming with the sharks until we drown,” Brendon sings with a sense of urgency in his ever-infectious voice that recalls jittery ’80’s nuggets like Pat Benatar’s “Anxiety (Get Nervous)” and Billy Joel’s “Pressure.” To that end, there’s a strong ’80’s influence throughout the album, particularly when it comes to the synthesizers. Not that this is a synth pop album per se. It has a lot of synth but it isn’t *that* synthy. It’s not Empire of the Sun or Class Actress. No, this is more pop rock than anything, though there are obviously hints of punk, emo and, yes, synth, spread all over it.
Another reason people are calling Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die! Panic!’s Vegas album: the album’s amusing title is a quote from Hunter S. Thompson’s novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Also, Brendon penned the witty lyrics, which he’s called very personal, while he was actually in Vegas.
The album has a secret weapon in the form of Butch Walker, producer extraordinaire, whose signature sound is all over this record. When I listen to some of these songs, I almost feel like I’m listening to a new Butch Walker album that just so happens to have someone else singing on it, which, in my book, is a very good thing. It especially reminds me of Butch’s first two albums, Left Of Self-Centered and Letters. The ultra-catchy “Nicotine” and red hot single “Miss Jackson” would have fit perfectly on either of those albums.
If there’s one thing Brendon Urie and Butch Walker have in common it’s delivering songs that immediately grab hold of you, whether it’s via a sweet vocal melody (“This Is Gospel”), a glimmering synth part (“Far Too Young To Die”), a fast and punchy drum beat (“Girl That You Love”) or a funky bass guitar line (“Girls/Girls/Boys”). All of the songs on Panic!’s debut were under four minutes long and that is also the case here, which simply means that these tunes are all fine, polished jewels that waste no time getting where they’re going, which should be directly into your ears, where they’re sure to linger in the most pleasant fashion for a long, long time.