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Panic At The Disco - Pretty Odd

Panic At The Disco, Pretty Odd

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

OPENING with the positive lyric “we’re so sorry we’ve been gone, we were busy writing songs for [mini-pause] you!” and then adding “you don’t have to worry, you don’t”, Panic At The Disco clearly intend to entertain, whilst reassuring that they’ve not sacrificed any of the quality that made their 2005 debut, A Fever You Can’t Sold Out so distinct.

And it’s fair to say that the extra time allocated to perfecting Pretty Odd has paid off. This sophomore effort marks a major progression and a genuine delight that’s very much about fulfilling the band’s own ambitions rather than any record companies.

It’s a catchy, infectious and occasionally loopy collection of songs that sweep between bouncy and psychedelic to genuinely heartfelt, whilst sound checking classics bands such as The Beatles, Brian Wilson and The Zombies.

The basic instrumentation was recorded at the Palms Hotel in the band’s hometown of Las Vegas, while the strings and mixing was done at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London, with the help of Grammy and Emmy award-winning producer, arranger and composer Rob Mathes.

The Abbey Road influence has clearly rubbed off the most. From the opening refrains of We’re So Starving, which leads straight into the euphoric first single Nine In The Afternoon, the album sets about creating its own Sgt Pepper with a little of ELO’s theatrics thrown in.

Indeed, the sense of melody is so pronounced that it’s difficult not to be swept along by the feel-good energy the album generates; but in a good way, not the sickly sweet sentiment generated by bands like The Feeling’s stifling hopefulness.

She’s A Handsome Woman, for instance, underlines the fact that the band haven’t lost their inherent wackiness (despite ditching that ! from their name), or the capacity to find a grittier edge – the guitars assuming a harder nature and the vocals taking on an almost stoner style during the chorus.

Do You Know What I’m Seeing?, on the other hand, is a joyful throwback to a bygone musical era that marks one of several highlights, kicking off with the chirpy lyric “clouds are marching along, singing a song”, before delivering a musical mix of ELO’s Mr Blue Sky (thanks to the strings) and REM (thanks to the underlying banjo).

There’s a wistful, Sunday afternoon cream tea vibe surrounding the kooky I Have Friends In Holy Spaces that certainly marks one of the Odd points in the album’s title.

But Northern Downpour is one of the heartfelt tracks that demonstrate the band’s growing maturity – a warm acoustic number that’s dripping in reassuring riffs, splendid vocals and wonderfully trippy imagery (“hey moon, please forget to fall down, hey moon, don’t go down”).

I also dug the trippy, Eastern influence that heralds the start of When The Day Met The Night, its striking opening giving rise to another ambitious musical journey that’s rife with melodic vocal layering (a la Beach Boys) and cinematic orchestration.

The straight ahead pop energy of Pas De Cheval also delights with its upbeat vibe and cheerful delivery – the chorus, in particular, proving to be one of the most rousing on the LP. While The Piano Knows Something I Don’t Know has fun mixing tempos, throwing in horns and flirting with everyone from ELO to Oasis (Whatever).

Things get really trippy on Behind The Sea, while Mad As Rabbits rounds things off in madcap, super-fun style thanks to its vibrant melodies and pop-savvy hooks – not to mention inventive lyrics such as “come save me from walking off a windowsill or I’ll sleep in the rain”.

Indeed, it’s a tribute to Panic At The Disco’s growing confidence and the scale of their musical ambition that almost every track works in some way, with only< i>Folkin’ Around striking the one really duff note.

But there’s a fragile beauty and aching hopefulness surrounding songs like She Had The World, while efforts like From A Mountain In The Middle Of The Cabins smacks of self-indulgence – but in a good way.

For some, the orchestration may become a little over-used and not everyone will dig the album’s knowing extravagance. But the biggest compliment we can pay Pretty Odd is that it’s a sophomore effort that’s easily capable of widening Panic At The Disco’s broad appeal because of the courageous way it consistently expands their sound and makes it more appealing.

It’s an album to herald the arrival of the spring that almost always leaves you with a smile on your face – and that can only be a good thing!

Download picks: Do You Know What I’m Seeing?, Northern Downpour, Behind The Sea, Pas De Cheval, She Had The World, Mad As Rabbits

Track listing:

  1. We’re So Starving
  2. Nine In The Afternoon
  3. She’s A Handsome Woman
  4. Do You Know What I’m Seeing?
  5. That Green Gentlemen
  6. I Have Friends In Holy Spaces
  7. Northern Downpour
  8. When The Day Met The Night
  9. Pas De Cheval
  10. The Piano Knows Something I Don’t Know
  11. Behind The Sea
  12. Folkin’ Around
  13. She Had The World
  14. From A Mountain In The Middle Of The Cabins
  15. Mad As Rabbits