CLUAS Album Reviews

Panic At The Disco 'Pretty Odd'

May 1

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Thursday, May 01, 2008  RssIcon

A review of the album ''Pretty Odd'' by Panic At The Disco

Panic At The Disco Pretty OddReview Snapshot: A badly-misjudged attempt to break free from the emo standard that collapses under the weight of its own platitudes - every sub-genre of sixties pop music used on Pretty Odd has been tackled before, and in ways vastly superior to this effort.

The Cluas Verdict? 3 out of 10

Full Review:
It was a few years ago that a wave of bands, loosely connected by nothing more than a misused genre name, broke out from the marginal sidelines and became exceedingly popular. Amongst them were Fall Out Boy, Funeral For A Friend, My Chemical Romance, The Used, and perhaps most popularly of all, Panic At The Disco. While fans of original emo hardcore bands like Rites of Spring rightly pointed out that little connected the “scene” (that had all the hallmarks of a press-created subculture) except for clichéd lyrics of disquiet and despair, it quickly caught on as a genre description apt for misapplication. The stereotype that these groups write only of misery and maladies may disintegrate under further listening, but still the perception remains the same, despite the repeated denials of members that they are part of any genuine emo movement.

At times though, it seemed like the bands brought it upon themselves. Panic At The Disco’s debut album was the commercially successful, critically maligned A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. This reception sums up well its amalgam of unimaginative standard instrumentation, by-the-numbers electronic elements and crowd-pleasing, self-referential, swept-in-romance lyrics. Like a formulaic film designed to soothe rather than challenge, it sold in large numbers to those eager for instant gratification, but for the most part fell flat with critics taking a more analytical approach to its content. So what of their next release, Pretty Odd? Does it follow a different path, more original and daring? The answer is: not really – ostensibly the outer trappings are completely different, but the end result is much the same. What it does show is a band eager to destroy any association with the fabricated world of emo, with no sixties sunshine motif too saccharine.

It doesn’t take long before the meta-references of old arrive. “We’re So Starving” opens the album in an apologetic way: “Oh how it’s been so long/We’re so sorry we’ve been gone/We were busy writing songs for you.” These lines are accompanied by the sounds of a screaming crowd, seemingly foaming at the mouth for the return of the band. As the opening shot of the album, it likewise makes it clear where the album is heading as a whole, beginning with a guitar/strings combination a million miles away from A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out.

As the album goes on, the influences become even more pronounced. The trappings of The Beatles, The Byrds, The Kinks, etc (think of any of the Summer of Love’s leading lights and they’ll fit in here) are all here; the impeccable strings, horns, random sound effects, and treated instruments adorn every song, as if rolled out from an assembly line (in fact “The Piano Knows Something I Don’t Know” includes the most obvious of touchstones, the flute mellotron). And that’s the problem with Pretty Odd as a whole: it sounds forced and formulaic, as if PATD perused a genre description of “psychedelic pop” and made an album based on their findings. This perception isn’t tempered by the contrived zaniness of lines like “Clouds are singing a song/Marching along, just like they do” or “When the sun found the moon/She was drinking tea in a garden/Under the green umbrella trees/In the middle of summer.”

However, there are a few interesting moments on the record. Many of the melodies are undeniably catchy in a laboured way, and it’s hard not to like the blatant Beatles pastiche of “Behind The Sea.” The orchestral arrangements also sound fantastic in places, such as on “Do You Know What I’m Saying” and “She Had The World,” which they provide some pleasantly colourful moments. These fleeting instances of inspiration suggest that PATD could have created a far superior album, had they chosen to use such elements more wisely.

You don’t have to worry/’cause we’re still the same band” states “We’re So Starving.” It’s an honest statement from a group that comes across more as a blank canvas than a real musical collective. It would be sad if Panic At The Disco descended into Madonnaesque reinvention with no substance, as there does appear to be able musicianship in the band that could be put to far better use, but that could well be their fate judging by this album. The reality is simple: beneath the ornate instrumentation, the melodic pop hooks, and the strained attempts to emulate every sixties subgenre to a tee, there remains a gaping void where the creativity should be. A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out may have sounded cut-and-dried at the time, but every reference on this album to sunny days or clouds (a self-conscious reiteration of their plea that they are not emo?) makes me yearn for an electronic break, lovingly encased within a ridiculously long song title. It would be vastly preferable to Pretty Odd, composed as it is of vacuous songs resting within the vestige of every sixties cliché imaginable.

Pádraic Grant

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.

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7 comment(s) so far...


Re: Panic At The Disco ''Pretty Odd''

Not denying that this review isn't thought out, but it seems almost patronizing from the start. Like the reviewer was foaming at the mouth to get in some trivial jabs. No one is denying that the band obviously is taking some influence from music in the 60s and 70s. It would be ignorant not to. But comments like:

This perception isn’t tempered by the contrived zaniness of lines like “Clouds are singing a song/Marching along, just like they do” or “When the sun found the moon/She was drinking tea in a garden/Under the green umbrella trees/In the middle of summer.”

are completely unnecessary. The lyrics can be understood quite simply by someone who's taken at least one English class in their lifetime. Could it be that they're, dare I say, using personification, and gasp, thinking outside of the box? Oh noes! (Fyi, that was sarcasm.)

I think this album is actually a nice of change of pace from all of the "woe is me" crap we've seen out of the whole scene genre in recent years. Instead of acknowledging the fact that a band is paying homage to some of the greatest musicians in history, attempting to cultivate their own expanding sound with their influences, this review is completely downing from the very beginning. Ross said that this album was meant to focus on the happier aspects of life. Maybe the reviewer could do with a few listens of "Nine in the Afternoon."

By Flo on   Sunday, May 04, 2008

Re: Panic At The Disco ''Pretty Odd''

I'm sorry, but as I said in the review, homages have been done in the past, and in far better ways. It doesn't matter if the songs are happy, sad, angry, romantic, whatever - if they're executed well I'll say so. Some influences from 60s music? That's understating it slightly; these aren't songs, they're 3 minute pastiches. The album doesn't represent growth, it represents regression. I can think of better ways to "think outside the box" than emulating the explicit elements of the most cliched psych pop.
Believe me, I've had a few listens of "Nine In The Afternoon" and I don't want any more...

By Padraic on   Sunday, May 04, 2008
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Re: Panic At The Disco ''Pretty Odd''

Okay honestly. I think this has to be the best album so far. I love it "beatles" sound. Very soothing and more up beat than the first panic cd.

Dude you could give the guys a break. You are being so uppity about the thing. I realy enjoy this. I realy feel like they were feeling very 60's about it, and quite frankly that seems to be coming back in A LOT OF BANDS, thank you. So, maybe it isn't the most original, but it's not THAT bad!!! Jeeze.

By SweetHeart on   Thursday, July 03, 2008
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Re: Panic At The Disco 'Pretty Odd'

Honestly, I think you're being just a bit hard on the dudes. You must bare in mind that this is only their second album and, as you've said in your review, one thats completely different then their first effort. Who knows the reason for the sudden change of pace? You could be absolutely right; They could be trying every which way but loose to break free of that blasted 'emo' label. Or maybe they're honestly just still trying to find their niche within the musical world. Who knows? Not I, and certainly not you. Honestly, I don't think it matters any. No, I take that back. It's actually pretty damn irrelevant. You seemed to have included it in your article for no other reason then to take yet another cheap shot at the band's new album. Perhaps you used it at the beginning of your article to start the reader off with an already unpleasant taste for the band in their mouth. 'Just to let you know, their last album was a self indulgent piece of crap.' A clever strategy, but not clever enough! I'm on to your mental trickery!

But back to my first point: This is only their second album. This is their only album experimenting with this type of music. This is not a band that has been around for decades. Hell, this band hasn't even been around for a decade. Granted, this album may not have been the most original in the world, but I happen to think its a pretty damn valiant effort for their first stab in this musical genre. They were obviously trying to stay true to the sounds of the 60's and 70's, and I figure they did a decent job. How, pray tell, could they have spiced it up for you? Perhaps a nice techno solo in the middle of 'That Green Gentleman'? In regards to what they were trying to do, that may have been a little out of place.

Another thing: 'Contrived zaniness of their lyrics'

How the hell are we judging that? I noticed you give absolutely no reason for you assertion, therefor we must assume that it was nothing more then a fancy term that you pulled out of your ass; Probably reminiscent of some 101 music class you took in community college. From the old album to the new, Ross' (The guitarist and lyricist for the band) lyrics have not really changed that much. All his little metaphors and whatnot were pretty much present in the old album, though perhaps not as prevalent as the style of the songs they were writing at the time did not call for them.

My review of your review: This review was filled to the brim cliche musical terms and all-bark-no-bite critiques that may sound truthful and well thought out when first read but, upon a closer inspection, hold very little substance.

And now, here's a little tip to help you with future reviewing endeavors:

PROTIP: When reviewing an album, make sure you do your homework. I noticed you got a few of the song names wrong.

By With Love on   Friday, July 04, 2008
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Re: Panic At The Disco 'Pretty Odd'

Maybe I am being “uppity” about the whole thing, but you see I have to be honest with my opinions when writing a review. What would be the point if I lied and said it was a great album, when in reality I think the exact opposite?

No, I didn’t include the emo section in an effort to attack the band more – it’s called context and when reviewing an album it’s useful to analyse it, as it may provide clues as to why the band has chosen a particular sound or written particular lyrics.

And so to the main point of your comment, which is basically “they tried.” It doesn’t matter if it’s their first stab at a particular genre or not, the obvious point of a review is to question if their venture worked. In this case it was a miserable failure, an album of tired re-treading and 60s references that have, as I said before, been done before and in far better ways.
As for the contrived zaniness (why I would learn that term in a Music 101 class, I have no idea) of the lyrics, I apologise for not giving due respect to lyrics about clouds drinking tea. I’ll try harder in future “community college classes.”

You seem to have by-passed the more positive areas of the review too. Do they not fit into your agenda?

My review of your comment: A hypocritical rant filled with assumptions and clichés whilst railing against them. Meandering and obviously biased, and degenerates into personal insults when the author runs out of things to say.

And now, here's a little tip to help you with future listening endeavors:

If you want a good 60s-influenced band, listen to The Apples In Stereo.

By Padraic on   Saturday, July 05, 2008
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Re: Panic At The Disco 'Pretty Odd'

I never really saw the point in reveiws, everyones taste in music is differant, when people insult my taste in music, i accept it, usually all they listen to is computer genetared rave or dance with no rythm or lyrics, but that is my opinion, but they like it so i leave myself out, i think merely the fact that he started the reveiw by stating what he thinks are similar bands is enough to prove that this is a very narrow minded veiw of the album, by grouping the types of music its really just the stereotype you are reveiwing, not the band in the first paragraph, they did release something differant from their first album and they said themselves that even they had to change it all near the end of the recording because it wasnt even sounding like them anymore, so I think that when you say this you think you are making an honest insight when you are really just repeating what every other "intellectual" reveiwer has been saying about this genre, when really its he peoplelistening not the music.

By Rachel Barrie on   Monday, November 10, 2008
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Re: Panic At The Disco 'Pretty Odd'

I completely disagree - actually read the review. I first dispel the idea of a unified "emo" genre in the first paragraph, before acknowledging the massive change in sound between the previous album and this. Seriously, did you actually read it or just look at the rating?

By Padraic on   Tuesday, November 25, 2008

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