Album cover for Panic! At the Disco's Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die.

by Joseph Mastando

Rating: *****

With last issue’s review of Bastille’s Bad Blood, this might sound a bit redundant, but the 80’s are back and here to stay. Bastille’s album evokes the 80’s in its experimentalism, primarily with its use of computerized synths; however, Panic! At the Disco (PATD) pushes the bar even higher. A band known for its technological backings and experimentation, PATD takes the essence of 80’s music and fused it with their quirky punk rock style in their new album, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die.

The band hit the 2013 music scene with its first single off of the new album, “Miss Jackson.” Although many of you are having flashbacks of Outcast’s hit song from 2001, this fresh Jackson fuses together baroque pop with punk rock, undeniably integrating PATD’s experimental qualities. The song opens with a muffled radio-esque voiceover of a female
singing about Miss Jackson: “Climbing out the back door, didn’t leave a mark. No one knows it’s you, Miss Jackson. Found another victim, but no one’s gonna find Miss Jackson.” As is the case for many of PATD’s songs, “Miss Jackson” paints a vivid tale (remember “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”?). The story tells of a woman who toys with the hearts of men and a man who loves her regardless. This hit provides darker verses with a large and upbeat chorus than what typically is heard on the radio, a trait PATD is known for.

Next in line, PATD’s “This is Gospel,” a song that could be considered a masterpiece when placed next to many of today’s radio hits. The song’s construction mimics much of the previous single, but the verses seem more haunting and the chorus fuller in comparison. With, yet again, an effect overlaying lead singer Brendan Urie’s voice—one that appears to be Urie singing three-part harmonies with himself—the verses sound drowned out and almost euphoric. The clarity of the powerful chorus juxtaposes nicely against the cryptic verses, indicating a clear shift in purpose and production. However, the song’s true beauty lies within its meaning. The song opens with the beating of a heart, which persists through the entirety of the song, followed by the lines, “This is gospel for the fallen ones, locked away in permanent slumber, assembling their philosophies from pieces of broken memories.” Evidently, death, grieving, and letting go occupy the song’s primary attention.

The music video expands this deep-routed message and provides three-dimensional clarification for the song’s intentions. At the video’s start, Urie lays upon a stretcher with doctor’s hands poking and prodding at his body in a systematic and staccato fashion. Then, Urie tries to break free from their grasp as the chorus belts, “If you love me, let me go.” The video then switches from Urie being dressed as a corpse would for a wake service (again by prodding hands) to him being buried beneath the ground during the songs second pre-chorus: “Don’t try and sleep through the end of the world and bury me alive cause I woke give up without a fight.” Subsequently, he tries to break free as the song concludes and he runs into a bright light while a flat-line sounds off.

These two songs, although great, depart from the rest of the album as they do not withhold the same vibe as The Breakfast Club soundtrack. Urie’s manipulated voice and the music’s blend of computerized and rock instruments resonate in songs like “Girl That You Love,” “Casual Affair,” “Far Too Young To Die,” and “Collar Full.” Many of the songs are subdued, and if they have rock-driven choruses, their verses remain sedated. These qualities integrated into one album provide for a sound reminiscent of 80’s radio hits, however fused with PATD’s punk rock prowess.

A song that may not sound as 80’s as the rest but speaks to the experimentalism of PATD is “The End of All Things.” Much like Imogen Heap’s “Hide And Seek,” the song depicts the vocalist in multiple-part harmonies with himself. As the last song on the album, it revisits the euphoric nature of the album’s first song, “This is Gospel.” Accompanied by an emotive piano and an impassioned violin, the song could truly bring tears to the eyes of any music lover. The song’s simplicity is truly moving, affirming the fashion-forward tip “less is more.” Aside from a few “ahs,” the lyrics of the entire song are only a few lines long: “I am always yours. Any change in time, we are young again. Lay us down. We’re in love. In these coming years, many things will change, but the way I feel
will remain the same. Lay us down. We’re in love.”

Through equating love with “the end,” this song seems to resolve many of the issues discussed throughout the album. As having this unbridled fascination with the loss of love through death (as seen in “This is Gospel” and “Far Too Young To Die”), the album seems to struggle with the internal battle of grieving. The album’s final song resolves this issue, saying that these two lovers should be put down together now that they found love, as if for them to not lose it. Or even, the song could express PATD’s outlook on life; once love is found, life can end for it is the driving force behind living. Regardless, the song’s beauty speaks volumes. Though it will mostly remain underrated, as its experimentalism does not speak to a pop-driven audience, “The End of All Things” acts as the perfect conclusion for the collection.

In full, the album does not cease to impress. From the opening song, the listener is taken on a melodic expedition through narrative and emotion. The album’s deluxe version, only featured at Target, provides two more songs to continue the listener’s journey—“Can’t Fight Against the Youth” and “All the Boys”—that both render the angst found in much of PATD’s music past.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for the 80’s, but I can’t see myself giving this album any less than a 5/5. With members dropping and times shifting, PATD has remained afloat by being innovative, a quality not many recognized artists have, and I commend them. And, with the recent release of the provocative video for “Girls/Girls/Boys,” PATD may soon become the next topic in everyone’s mouth.

For now, let’s just enjoy the tunes.