album reviews

Panic! at the Disco
Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!
Fueled By Ramen (2013)

Kindred spirits: Fall Out Boy, Green Day, the All-American Rejects.

Las Vegas trio Panic! at the Disco has given a hometown spin to its pop-punk sound on its fourth album, "Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!" The title is a quote from Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", and the songs capture the Vegas scene—from its glitzy twinkle ("Vegas Lights") to its chance encounters ("Casual Affair")—all with a glossy, synth-driven electro-pop sound.

The band certainly knows how to craft a dramatic, stadium-swelling anthem. Album-opener "This Is Gospel" features lead singer Brendon Urie's soaring vocals, and on the super-catchy "Miss Jackson", his voice slinks and slithers like the bedhopper he's singing about, sealing the deal with a winking '80s reference in the chorus ("Miss Jackson, are you nasty?").

But a polished sound can't mask all the cracks in the songwriting. "Nicotine" describes an unhealthy relationship with an overwrought metaphor for smoking ("I need it so bad / Your love's a [expletive] drag"). "Girl That You Love" has a dark, seductive tone, but its repetitive sound and lyrics never grow in any compelling way.

Album-closer "The End of All Things" is a tender piano ballad that aches with feeling, but its sound is so incongruous with the rest of the album that it feels like an afterthought.

Panic! at the Disco certainly shows some of its pop songwriting chops, but ultimately the album suffers the same problem as its inspiring city: too much shimmer and not enough substance.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 6 December 2013.
.: Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! on