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Panic! At The Disco

A raft of poppy emo-punk bands surfaced on the back of BLINK-182, JIMMY EAT WORLD and the almost copycat FALL OUT BOY, and American post-Nintendo troupe, PANIC! AT THE DISCO, were another act in this youth-baiting brigade. Though, as time wore on, their second decade in business presented their legion of fans with a trimmed-down line-up and a synthetic 80s sound that suited both the remaining alumni of Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith.
Formed early in 2005 in the suburb of Summerlin in Las Vegas, Nevada, childhood friends and high school graduates Brendon Urie (vocals/guitar/piano) and Ryan Ross (guitar) completed the quartet with the rhythm section of Brent Wilson (bass) and Spencer Smith (drums). Growing out of a fixation with the aforementioned BLINK-182, PATD secured a deal with label of the moment, Fueled By Ramen; fuelled incidentally by FALL OUT BOY’s Pete Wentz through his own Decaydance imprint. The connection didn’t end there, as Ryan seemed to have inherited FOB’s penchant for snappy song titles and kidulthood tunes. Their moniker on the other hand ultimately originated from the more credible source of a SMITHS song (`Panic’), if by way of fellow emo-punks NAME TAKEN’s similar but completely un-associated track.
Pitched and promoted on the road at the fruitful Nintendo Fusion tour of ’05 (alongside FALL OUT BOY, MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK and The STARTING LINE), A FEVER YOU CAN’T SWEAT OUT (2005) {*6}, was an archetypal slow burner of an inaugural album, climbing snail-paced into the US Top 20, as well as the UK equivalent when released overseas the following February. Breaking the Top 100 with their whining, tongue-twisting spawn, `The Only Difference Between Martyrdom And Suicide Is Press Coverage’, further success was guaranteed when the less voluble, `I Write Sins Not Tragedies’ and `But It’s Better If You Do’ hit the charts. Prior to releasing another sprawlingly self-conscious (s)hit single, `Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off’, that August, Jon Walker was signed up to supersede Brent who’d been asked to leave; a re-issued `I Write Sins…’ also cracked the UK Top 40, as well as being the hiding place as a CD B-side for their version of RADIOHEAD’s `Karma Police’.
Dropping the ! from their moniker for the whole of 2008, sophomore set PRETTY. ODD. {*7} was indeed a pretty odd record, if “pretty odd” meant that the boys had overdosed on “Sgt. Pepper” pills by way of “Magical Mystery Tour”. All but topping both the US and UK charts, and spurred on by a decent-sized hit, `Nine In The Afternoon’, the kaleidoscopic ‘Disco boys had morphed into The BEATLES via vaudeville and symphonic, baroque pop. From the opening apologies on `We’re So Starving’ (seemingly due to them writing songs just for us!), to the closing 6-minutes, `Mad As Rabbits’, their Fab Four fixation went even further on `Northern Downpour’, `She’s A Handsome Woman’ and `Behind The Sea’. What LENNON might’ve thought of this set, had he been alive, would’ve filled a few swear boxes, but for the youth of the day, this “A Day In The Life of” colouring-in book added up to one wicked set. Different as it was, the combination of both schizoid styles was there for everyone to judge on the unnecessary CD/DVD-package, LIVE IN CHICAGO (2008) {*5}.
Citing creative differences as their reason to bail, songwriter Ryan and Jon duly formed their own power-pop-styled act, The YOUNG VEINS, releasing their own take of 60s Brit Invasion on their retro-fied debut set, “Take A Vacation” (2010). Left holding the baby, Urie and Smith carried on regardless, emerging from the studio in 2011 with third set, VICES & VIRTUES {*6}. A new wave/early-80s tinny sound marked this Top 10 record, although it was clearly an attempt at bringing back their day-glo emo glory days. `The Ballad Of Mona Lisa’, `Let’s Kill Tonight’ and `Ready To Go (Get Me Out Of My Mind)’, might’ve appealed to discerning KILLERS fans, but the patchwork pop elements were starting to grate on everyone outside of their pubescent American teenage fanclub.
Adding patient bassist Dallon Weekes to the fold (upgraded from 2011 tour stalwart), transatlantic Top 10 set, TOO WEIRD TO LIVE, TOO RARE TO DIE! (2013) {*6}, fitted in to a modern world of sweetie-styled headphone pop. Urie’s PANIC! AT THE DISCO again carried the emo torch on anthemic/synthetic HOWARD JONES/THOMAS DOLBY-esque ditties. Whether there was room at the school playground dance-space for PANIC!, FALL OUT BOY, and others waiting behind the bike-shed, mattered little to a band presenting manufactured pop to the masses; still, if one was young enough one could raise your hands in the air for `Miss Jackson’ (featuring Lolo; LULU was probably unavailable), `Girls/Girls/Boys’ and the hopefully prophetic, `The End Of All Things’.
Brendon Urie left to hold the baby, after Smith bailed in 2013 (he’d toured up until 2015 when substance abuse reared its ugly head), PANIC! AT THE DISCO were back in the studio for album five, DEATH OF A BACHELOR (2016) {*6}; Weekes was again a tour-only member; session men now surrounding the Sinatra-swaggering singular Urie. Co-produced with Jake Sinclair, the US chart-topping (UK Top 5) set embraced an emotive gamut of pop, hip-hop, lounge, gospel, theatre and the kitchen-sink that, for some, was much-too grandiose and OTT, and for others that had never discovered ROBBIE WILLIAMS or nostalgic swing of old, the bees knees. Left to his own devices, Urie came up trumps with his exuberant emo-dance music; left to others, the retro-visionary borrowed The B-52’s `Rock Lobster’ beats on `Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time’, plus that of a smorgasbord of finger-clicking crooners on `Impossible Year’, `Crazy=Genius’ (name-checking The BEACH BOYS guys) and the un-punk title track. Real rock fans should steer clear.
© MC Strong 2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Oct2013-Jan2016

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