In summer of 2005, one of the decade’s most revolutionary pop culture phenomena was introduced to the charts. A experimental/ rock/ folk Vegas-based band that called themselves Panic! At the Disco emerged into the limelight, attracting a variety of music lovers and critics who, at first, seemed unsure what to make of the quartet. They set themselves apart instantly from the rest of the mainstream artists in public eye at the time because of the variety of unusual instruments they were able to play – and exceptionally well, at that. At the time, lead singer and frontman Brendon Urie, guitarist Ryan Ross, drummer Spencer Smith, and bassist Brent Wilson were just finishing up high school. Melodic genius and talent rang true for them – Panic skipped the whole young artist progression thing of putting out EPs and sample tracks, and by dropping their first project, a full-length album entitled “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out”, they became the first and so far the most successful protegee of Fall Out Boy bassist and entrepenuer, Pete Wentz. Even as complete newcomers, they immediately gave other emerging bands including Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and The Killers a run for their money.
Despite their seemingly over night transformations from normal high school students to much sought-after musicians envied for their creativity and brilliance, P!ATD has managed to stay focused on solely their music and released four singles from their “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out”: their first and perhaps most memorable being “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies”, the second, “But It’s Better If You Do”, “Lying Is teh Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off”, and “Build God, Then We’ll Talk.” The titles give critics reason enough to target, but there’s way more. With song topics varying from infidelity, God, marriage, and independance, presented in a futuristic and 19th century European fashion through both audio and visual. Also, there aren’t many bands out there – if any other, at all – that are able to pull off a vaudevillian-styled concert reminiscent of 1920’s speakeasies and circus acts, all while donning berets and paisley ruffled shirts, and not be slammed for it. Panic! At the Disco dominates at spinning eloquence, creativity, and musical genius into a masterpiece.
“A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out” is divided into two sections – the first six songs consist of a faintly techno-y sound, upbeat tracks composed of electric guitar, computerized drum machines, percussion, and other instruments. Panic! released one single that was part of the first half of AFYCSO, entitled “The Only Difference Between Suicide and Martyrdom Is Press Coverage” for the soundtrack of the 2006 film Sakes on a Plane. After the seventh track is “Intermission”, which samples a part of Orson Welles’ widely-publicized radio adaptation of War of the Worlds. “Ladies and gentlemen. Due to circumstances beyond our control… we are unable to continue our broadcast of dance music. We shall continue now with our piano interlude.” Then comes a complex piece on grand piano composed entirely by Urie, then 18 and now, 22. This transitions into pt. 2 of the album, the last 6 songs that are played with the instruments that were the inspiration for their old-fashioned, embellished live performances: the accordion, organ, piano forte, trumpet, cello, and the violin.
Though most of the songs are strung with lyrics and instrumentals completely original and scattered with symbolism on bassist and lyricist Ryan Ross’s part, they consist of numerous pop culture references to modern day and classic literature and film.
My favorite song from the first half of the album is 2) “London Beckoned Songs About Money Written By Machines”.
”Stop stalling,” Urie commands, “make a name for yourself; boy you’d better put the pen to paper, charm your way out. If you talk it, better walk it. Better back your s*** up with more than good hooks while you’re under gun. I’m burning and I’ve blackened my lungs, boy you know it feels good with fire back on your tongue. Make us hip, make us ‘it’, make a scene, or. Shrug us off you shoulders, don’t approve a single word that we wrote. ’Oh, keep quiet’. Let us sing like the doves, THEN decide if it’s done with purpose or lack thereof.”
This second track on the album is one of a few that targets the issue of an artist’s genuity and originality versus concern they might develop for their audience’s preferences. These guys obviously didn’t give much thought to what ratings their album might receive, as everything about their first album is unusual. As artists, it was unnecessary for them to sacrifice anything in order to top charts.
Other favorites of mine are “Camisado”, “But It’s Better If You Do,” and from pt. 2, “I Constantly Thank God for Esteban”, which implies the fact that Ross is an Atheist, not by shunning the idea of God, but by questioning the sincerity of those religious who preach and condemn non-believers for their skepticism.
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