Within the first few tracks of Pretty. Odd., it becomes evident that Panic at the Disco’s fever has long since been sweat out. In their debut studio album, Panic covered a mix of genres including emo, pop-punk, electro, vaudeville and baroque pop. However, the style of music shifts to classic rock in Pretty. Odd. that can be related to bands such as The Beatles, Beach Boys or The Kinks, which is pretty odd within itself.
The ironic part about the shift in styles is that lead vocalist Brendan Urie states within the first song “you don’t have to worry/ ’cause we’re still the same,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. Soon after the release of Pretty. Odd., guitarist and principal songwriter Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker left the band, mainly due to creative differences. The band decided to drop the famous exclamation point from their name on this album, which stirred up more unsettling feelings among their fan base than Panic expected. The problem here is much deeper than the drop in punctuation; it’s the meaning behind the “!” that’s lost. The first two tracks on the album, “We’re So Starving” and “Nine in the Afternoon”, are the only songs that have faint traces of what Panic at the Disco once was. The rest of the album seems to be a blur of moon references and backing vocals that make me feel trapped in the 1960s.
Panic takes the term “experiment” to a whole new level throughout the entire album, having Ross step out from behind the curtain to perform vocals on the track “Behind the Sea”. I’ll admit, he does a good job adding a bit of cohesiveness towards the Beatles-type sound they were trying to achieve. The songs are very simple and cut very close to their roots. However, they are so simple that they’re not entirely memorable. To that I ask why the members are trying to limit themselves, when I know they’re capable of so much better.
One point worth addressing is the fact that Panic debuted their first album merely a few months after they all graduated high school, and that Pretty. Odd. was released three years later. It’s clear within the entire album that the members have done a lot of growing up in those three years, and evidently wanted to create a more mature style. However, there’s a fine line between being retro, or innovative, and producing a sound that’s expired. In my eyes, Panic leaned more towards the latter option. I appreciate the fact that they tried something new in order to achieve a unique sound. However, they had already achieved that status in their previous album. I can’t think of a better time to use the phrase “don’t fix what isn’t broken.”