Album Review: Panic! at the Disco, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!, 2013

I would love to write a coherent, sensical review of Panic! at the Disco’s fourth LP, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! — but I don’t think that’s entirely possible. There are several reasons why. The first is that my history with this band is long and torrid and intense. The second is the fact that the third single off the album, “Girls/Girls/Boys”, is literally a bisexual anthem. The third is that the band released the video for that single today, and it’s one of the hottest things I’ve ever seen. (See it below. Warning: very Not Safe For Work!)

“Girls/Girls/Boys” is my favorite song on this album for lots of reasons. It’s catchy, for one, dark and a little twisted in its bass beats and melodies. The entire album has a very stark vibe to it, different from anything that Panic! has done before but reminiscent of their headier stuff. (I can’t help but wonder how much influence bassist Dallon Weekes has had on the band since he joined, because lots of Too Weird to Live reminds me unequivocally of The Brobecks — musically, not lyrically.) This album honestly feels like a total reinvention — the ghost of Ryan Ross is still there, but he’s faded, no longer such an intense force that everything Panic! produces breathes his name.

But I also love this song because it’s important. I’ve spent a lot of time discussing bisexual erasure and biphobia with friends lately — Velociriot featured a post on it today. “Girls/Girls/Boys” talks about bisexuality as it is — a normal orientation. This song is incredibly heavy, but also incredibly pretty, and on top of all that, it’s sexy. When I referred to it as a bisexual anthem, I meant it. And to see Brendon Urie shout the lyrics of the chorus, in the nude, is… an experience. Whew.

What’s interesting is that Urie has become the sole focus of the marketing for this record. I’m not entirely sure how to feel about that yet. The first two Panic! records were marketed using mostly art, and the videos — while they starred Urie — didn’t feature only himVices & Virtues featured Urie and drummer Spencer Smith heavily, because they were the two left standing after Panic! split in half in 2009.  But the videos for Too Weird to Live thus far have only featured Urie. The album artwork only features Urie. And so much of this album seems to be reflective of Urie as an artist, as much as it is reflective of Panic!’s journey as a band. Like I said, my feelings on this point are still mixed and kind of confused — but I’m hoping to come back to them later.

At any rate, this album is really, really good. It’s dark and has a lot of techno-type influences, Urie’s vocals soaring over bass beats that are just this side of twisted. There is a heavy sense of “Vegas” in this album — there is even a song titled after the city from which Panic! hails. It’s a lot of intensity and colors against a heavy backdrop, and it’s gorgeous.

I’ve always loved Panic! for its strange combinations of genres and poetic lyrics that hurt, but also empower in some unexpected ways. This album doesn’t disappoint on either front — it’s probably one of the most refreshing albums I’ve heard in months, actually. While it clearly fits into the pop and pop punk canons of 2013, it also features a lot of glam rock throwbacks and 80s pop synthesis that only Panic! could pull off successfully.

I suspect I’ll be listening to this album quite a lot in the near future — ever since I got home this evening, I’ve had it on repeat, swimming through all the emotions it inspires without tiring. Now, the goal is to see these songs performed live. I first saw Panic! in 2009 — right after the split — when they opened for blink-182. I feel that it’s time to see them headline. Heck, maybe Brendon Urie will even get naked for “Girls/Girls/Boys”. (A girl can dream, right?)

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