Fever pitch: End of Eras: A comprehensive guide to Panic! At The Disco

Against all the pretty odds, album five is imminent. Crank up that glittery excitement meter with this in-depth guide to Panic! At The Disco.

Panic! At The Disco defined a generation with their debut album. Smart, sexy and crammed with banger-on-top-of-banger, the impact of ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’ can still be felt today. This isn’t a band trading on nostalgic legacy though. With every album, a new era.

From the exclamation-dropping upheaval of ‘Pretty. Odd.’ through the lush disco of ‘Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die’ until the history-baiting smirk of new track ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’, Panic! At The Disco deal in change (and ridiculous titles). This is the comprehensive guide to a band who refuse to stand still.

Disco Fever

Starting life in 2004 as a blink-182 covers band while their members were still at school, Panic! At The Disco had the most ordinary of beginnings. Influenced by the stagnant nature of their Las Vegas hometown scene, the band set about trying to be different. A handful of demos were cobbled together, uploaded to the then-fledgling ‘Internet’ and sent, via Livejournal, to Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz. Upon seeing them perform a couple of songs in their practice space, he signed them to his Decaydance Records label, which has been their home ever since. The band set about recording ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’ without ever playing live.

From the opening ‘Introduction’ of, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we proudly present a picturesque score of passing fancy,” ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’ was unlike anything else. While the first half leaned heavily on electronics, the second toyed with strings and piano. In a musical landscape that was still defined by genre and your parents’ record collection, it threw doors wide open. In trying to be different to the bands next door, Panic! At The Disco offered something completely new, on a worldwide scale.

Elsewhere, System of a Down and Green Day were getting political - Panic! At The Disco were dealing with themselves. From managing the hype that the Pete Wentz association had caused through to the regular struggles of growing up and finding your voice, Panic! At The Disco managed to create a world that was fantastical yet doused in reality. Pulling influence from cult literature (Chuck Palahniuk) and film (Closer), ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’ was smart, sultry and oh so cool. The lyrics, articulate but fun, were made for MSN Messenger yet conveyed a dangerous sense of the unknown, while the band themselves wore paisley shirts and eyeliner. It made no sense but something about it just worked.

It was the sort of album that belonged to a generation who didn’t fit in and, armed with computers, found they weren’t alone. This was their soundtrack.

Live Is The Most Fun A Band Can Have Without Taking Their Clothes Off

Just thirteen months after ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’ was released, Panic! At The Disco found themselves headlining a four night residency at Brixton Academy. After recording the album, the band had to learn how to play their instruments live, but surrounded by contortionists, dancers and a circus ringmaster, the cabaret nature of the album came to life in glorious technicolour. They gave #zerofucks about ‘the norm’ as they became both adored and hated with matching intensity.

Panic! At The Disco’s debut helped set about a change that can be felt today with the genre-skipping, box-smushing, artistic flexibility that allows Halsey, PVRIS, Bring Me The Horizon and countless others to straddle the once isolated worlds of pop and alternative music. Change? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

The Punctuation Chronicles

Dropping the exclamation mark for second album ‘Pretty. Odd.’, Panic At The Disco came out swinging. Everyone remembers where they were the day the ‘!’ disappeared from the band’s logo. Seriously, the world has never cared so much about punctuation.

Trading their 19th century chic for something a touch more in swing with the sixties, it wasn’t just the aesthetic that changed. The band refused to retrace their steps, no matter how groundbreaking that path was. ‘Pretty. Odd.’ was a complete overhaul of everything you thought you knew about Panic(!) At The Disco.

Swapping the glitchy, uptempo house party that raged on ‘A Fever…’ for a lush weekend getaway, ‘Pretty. Odd.’ sounded like an entirely different band. Released in 2008 after the band scrapped their first attempt at it, ‘Pretty. Odd.’ was a huge gamble from a band who had built a world of carnival and cabaret. Evolution is a phrase tossed about by most artists but the leap from ‘I Write Sins, Not Tragedies’ to ‘Mad As Rabbits’ was, and is, astounding. Romantic and poetic, Panic At The Disco may have immersed themselves in a newfound maturity but the wide-eyed dreamer at the heart of ‘Pretty. Odd’ was still, by large, untainted by the world around them. It’s a record of escape. While it caused tilted heads and mass online hysteria, Panic At The Disco still found themselves headlining arena tours as well as closing Glastonbury’s The Other Stage.

Ultimately, this invention and discovery caused a rift in the band with guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker leaving at the end of the album cycle. However the writing of ‘Pretty. Odd’ had allowed both drummer Spencer Smith and vocalist Brendon Urie a chance to contribute to the creative process, which was useful for what came next.

Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions But Do Wear Sunglasses Inside

Radio silence followed for a few weeks and uncertainties began to grow. Then ‘New Perspective’ dropped. A one-shot single for teen vamp-fest ‘Jennifer’s Body’, the video saw Brendon and Spencer strolling about, shades on, looking effortless and defiant while the music - more guitar driven than anything the band had touched before - was optimistic, uptempo and joyful. Panic! were back! (and so was the exclamation mark!)

Honey, Don’t Call It A Comeback If You’ve Never Been Away

That swaggering return bled into the band’s third album, ‘Vices & Virtues’. From the opening stomp of ‘The Ballad of Mona Lisa’ until the euphoric playground of ‘Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met…)’, Panic! stride forward. It’s a louder, more brash incarnation of the band as Brendon and Spencer pulled back their band from the brink.

Things had changed but those huge, captivating anthems weren’t going anywhere. This era of the band, like the two before it, married the reflective to the progressive. Instead of focusing on genre-welding or fashion throwbacks, Panic! straddled their own history with a wicked sense of carefree abandon.

Through the twisted riff on the ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies’ video that’s threaded throughout ‘The Ballad of Mona Lisa’ to the final turn of ‘Nearly Witches’, rescued from that abandoned second album, ‘Vices & Virtues’ is an album of closure and a launch-pad for Brendon to come into his own.

Fear, Loathing and Dancing in Las Vegas

Three albums in and with a more creative confidence founded in his band’s ability to do whatever the hell they want and pull it off with aplomb, Brendon Urie set to work on ‘Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!’. Inspired by their hometown of Las Vegas once more, this record is doused in neon grit. Instead of fighting the trappings of Vegas, Panic! embrace it.

With Spencer taking a backseat during the creative process due to addiction-related issues that eventually forced him to leave the band, Panic! At The Disco was now, in essence, a solo project. Instead of hiding, Brendon’s personality came to the forefront of the record. Taking influences from hip-hop, dance and twitching beats, ‘Too Weird to Live…’ is a more spacious, luxurious record that still knows how to pack a punch. There’s a playful excitement to every track and Brendon - who’s never taken himself too seriously - managed to inject even more fun into the disco. Balancing that with a hyper confessional intimacy, Panic! were still pushing forward and changing the rules of the game.

The lyrics for closing track ‘The End Of All Things’ were written as his wedding vows. Even then, it was like Brendon was planning the next era of his band.

The Death Of A Bachelor

We’ve heard four tracks from the imminent fifth album ‘Death Of A Bachelor’. The title track takes that minimalist dance from their previous record and warps it while ‘Hallelujah’ is a glorious, affirmation of still having a voice after all these years. ‘Victorious’ is aptly named while ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ begins with a mournful snippet of ‘This Is Gospel’, the lead single from their previous album before tumbling into a gleeful, musical romp. Even with this much insight, it’s impossible to guess just where Panic! At The Disco is going to go next. As Brendon, now toying with production, finds himself in an ever-growing musical candy shop, that beaming charisma is becoming more and more captivating.

We know two things. It’s not going to sound like anything we’ve heard before and it’s going to be brilliant. That’s just who Panic! at the Disco are.


Get your copy of the latest issue

More like this