Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die is the first Panic! at the Disco album I do not intend on purchasing. Although its presence has struck with greater force than previous album Vices & Virtues, it lacks the substance that their earlier work delivered. With newfound glitz due to an old-style Vegas theme, P!ATD’s sound has transitioned from theatrical pop-rock to dance-pop, incorporating auto-tune and other processing techniques that mask lead singer Brendon Urie’s renowned vocals. Aside from the album’s two singles, “Miss Jackson” and “This Is Gospel”, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! creates a 32-minute long blur, reminiscent of an era of pop I habitually tend to avoid – the ’80s.
The first single off the album, “Miss Jackson”, which was extravagantly released through music video, immediately threw me off guard. It was a dramatic change for them stylistically, as their pop and dance-beat-friendly debut, but unfortunately threw them directly into the line of Fall Out Boy’s shadow. It came off as a low-par replication of FOB’s Save Rock and Roll comeback sound. The resemblance is understandable due to the two bands’ use of the same producer, Butch Walker, but it initially scared me that P!ATD may lose their unique appeal.
Although “Miss Jackson” grew on me, I was relieved by the presence of their second single, “This Is Gospel”. The song also strays from their traditional sound, but doesn’t feel as wrong or as far off as “Miss Jackson” does. It feels more like P!ATD. It is upbeat, infectious and had me hopeful for the rest of the album, which is exactly why it fails. “Miss Jackson” and “This Is Gospel” are not like the rest of the album at all.
The feel of Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! is encompassed by songs like “Girl That You Love” and “Vegas Lights”. They are upbeat yet monotonous. The synthesizers periodically change in a catchy manner, but the songs lack the presence of clean instrumentals. The ’80s electro-pop sound dilutes the talents of drummer Spencer Smith and bassist Dallon Weekes. Plus, you think you’d hear more guitar from a band that labels their genre as ‘rock’ on Facebook. After this album, I do not feel comfortable calling P!ATD a rock band.
There are, however, some redeeming qualities. As bland as the lyrics are for a P!ATD album, they far exceed the lyrical expectations of dance-pop album. The song “Nicotine” is somewhat reminiscent of some of their older work in that it contains metaphors and playful word choices such as “I taste you on my lips and I can’t get rid of you. So I say damn your kiss and the awful things you do, you’re worse than nicotine.”
Whether the band felt this direction was right for them because it paid homage to their Las Vegas roots, or necessary to move forward in today’s pop culture media, remains irrelevant. At the end of the day, Panic! at the Disco’s unique style has been tarnished and this album is just not memorable. The tragedy of it is they didn’t have to make these extreme changes to achieve the same level of recognition that they have today. They would have taken the spotlight anyway due to FOB’s revival and the current re-focus on pop-punk. The two bands even toured together. It is just unfortunate that they did not use this opportunity to exhibit their theatrical pop-rock personality. We can only hope that P!ATD will take us by surprise for album number five. It seems to be a trend that their odd-numbered albums are far superior anyway.