Atlantic Records were so paranoid that Panic At The Disco’s new album ‘Pretty. Odd’ would inevitably leak online that they literally only printed one hallowed copy in the UK. Luckily, Gigwise was invited down to the label offices this week to get a sneak peak. Here’s our track-by-track guide to the album and our initial thoughts…
1. We're So Starving
A short intro track with a crescendo of lo-fi guitar and vocal that tempts you into the first full song. "You don't have to worry, we're still the same band" is the main lyric, and one that provides the first hint that the next 48 minutes will prove that Panic At The Disco are anything but.
2. Nine In The Afternoon
Current single and probably the most radio-friendly track on the album. If you haven't heard it just listen to Xfm for more than ten minutes.
3. She's A Handsome Woman
A slightly plodding slab of soft rock with strong overtones of Beatles-inspired psychedelia that shows a delicate touch towards the end, with some nicely layered instrumentation and vocals.
4. You Know What I'm Seeing?
Four minutes of sun-lashed folk in the vein of The Decemberists. It's simple, apart from the string section backing, but probably the most instantly likable track on the whole album.
5. That Green Gentleman
The first piece of music on the album that is aurally identifiable as the Panic At The Disco we got to know in 2005 and 2006. Definitely shares some genes with their debut album but lacks the killer chorus or riff that made them famous. Pleasingly complex towards the end.
6. I Have Friends in Holy Places
Barely a minute-and-a-half long and, depending on your point of view, a pointless exercise in matching a ukulele with some classic jazz noodlings or a brave glimpse into the brain of a mixed up musician.
7. Northern Downpour
A sleazy guitar ballad with grit (if you ignore the lyric "Hey moon, please forget to do down/Hey moon, don't you go down") One of several slow songs on the album.
8. When The Day Met The Night
The track everyone will want to see the band play live. It's brass backing and glorious string-based crescendo are that of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys; this one will definitely be raising a few arms in the air this summer.
9. Pas De Cheval
Has the pace and power of I Write Sins Not Tragedies with a bellowing chorus and ripping guitar solo. One of the stronger tracks on the album.
10. The Piano Knows Something I Don't Know
More horns and more strings combine to make a decent album track with an extended breakdown outro reminiscent of Panda Bear.
11. Behind The Sea
A dense three minutes thirty seconds with more bells and, for a bit of variety, some marching drums. After all, the song mentions marching drums so they'd better be included in the music too, along with what sounds like a sleigh bell on this downbeat ditty.
12. Folkin' Around
Sounds like an indie square dance party gone wrong but has the catchiest chorus of all fifteen tracks and is probably the best on the album, despite being under two minutes long.
13. She Had The World
The weakest track on the album; it's Victoria merry-go-round sound effects are dire and the horn/string accompaniment is, once again, all over this track like a redneck with sunburn.
14. From A Mountain In The Middle Of The Cabins
Some rousing honky tonk piano rips into a basic composition that proves to be entirely forgettable towards the end.
15. Mad As Rabbits
Another track that takes the essence of the first album yet fails to deliver something really memorable. More horn sections join in but the end result is a bit of a mess and only slightly likable.
Any popular band that tries to move their music in a new direction, one that they find satisfying and they hope their loyal fans will like, are making an admirable move – however, when the end result is simply unrecognisable as coming from the musicians in question, then it's probably a step too far. Most of us have witnessed or heard the essential DNA of Panic At The Disco yet the essence of that band seems to have drifted away on this release, leaving a mass of different sounds and styles that bear no positive relation to one another. Tracks one, six and fifteen probably demonstrate this confusion the best, but most of the new material sounds like a band struggling to bring together their musical ambitions and the mark set by their first release.
Panic At The Disco obviously haven't sat back stylistically during the making process of ‘Pretty. Odd.’, but they may have missed the second album benchmark by quite a long way. Inevitably, this will probably upset their fans more than if they'd made a record that sounds even slightly warm and familiar.