Album Review: ‘Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!’ by Panic! At The Disco
Singles to download: “Miss Jackson,” “This Is Gospel”
For fans of: Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, ’80s synthpop
Somehow, Panic! At The Disco has managed to completely revamp its image and sound with each new album. 2005’s “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out” was jam-packed with the weird, verbose baroque pop that made the band famous; 2008’s “Pretty. Odd.” did a total about-face toward psychedelic folk-rock; and 2011’s “Vices & Virtues” went back to the band’s pop-punk roots after a split shook up the lineup. “Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!” marks yet another change in direction for the Las Vegas-based band, this time toward ’80s-inspired synthpop with an overall darker sound.
The album starts off strong with its first two singles, “This Is Gospel” and “Miss Jackson.” In “This Is Gospel,” lead singer Brendon Urie’s haunting vocals build into a powerful chorus about letting go while “Miss Jackson” features more aggressive pop-punk melodies that are fun to sing along to. “Vegas Lights” keeps up the high energy of “Miss Jackson,” but with a decidedly more ’80s-inspired sound.
In fact, that electronic ’80s vibe quickly overwhelms the rest of the album. After “Vegas Lights,” the album takes a much darker turn, sometimes tending toward a very ambient, synth-y sound. “Girl That You Love” sounds like something straight out of the movie “Drive” while “Casual Affair” seems like it belongs in the background of a video game. The tone of these songs is pretty depressing, and they soon start to blend together. Perhaps the most somber-sounding track on the album, though, is its closer, “The End of All Things.” The song features a very simple piano melody and strange, vocoded vocals reminiscent of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek.” It’s a pretty song—Urie apparently wrote it in place of wedding vows for his wife—but it ends the album on a sobering note.
This shift toward a moodier tone may seem odd, but it’s reflective of the more personal nature of the album. According to the band, “Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!” is basically a concept album about coming of age in the culture of debauchery that is Las Vegas (in fact, the title is a quote from the movie “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”). No wonder the album is a bit dark; it’s all about Sin City.
“Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!” might be Panic! At The Disco’s most sincere album to date, but unfortunately, fans of the band’s previous records might have a hard time getting behind its darker, more retro sound. If you’re looking for fun, lively songs that will make you want to dance, stick with tracks like “Miss Jackson,” “Vegas Nights” and “Nicotine” in the first half of the album. If you want to stare out the window and pretend your life is a sad movie, stick with the second half.