Review by: Ed Luo
Album assigned by: Eric Pember
So I remember people talking about this album when it first came out, and me being the snubby anti-mainstream music listener I was back at the time, refused to give it any light of day, thinking it was going to be inferior to any 1960s music that I had been obsessively been listening to. And now, after some adjustment in attitude and occasional goading and eventual assignment from my SO, I can now say that I can definitely appreciate what Panic! at the Disco, or more precisely then-guitarist Ryan Ross, were going for. In one of the most peculiar genre shifts in recent years, Panic! at the Disco, who were one of the handful of successful emo-pop bands in the mid-2000s, made a near-180° shift to 1960s-influenced pop music, with an aspiration to make music akin to the 1967-era Beatles, complete with orchestral arrangements and psychedelic sonic effects. And I’ll have to admit, it almost works.
Almost. The main sticking point is that bandleader Brendon Urie’s vocals do not fit the music at all. The whiny punkish timbre which was retained from the band’s earlier music just sounds really out-of-place betwixt the strings and horns. Ross, who composed the majority of music, gets to sing lead in parts of “Behind the Sea”, “She Had the World”, and “Mad as Rabbits”, and his voice complements the music much better.
The second point is that the songwriting is just not quite up to par. There are some admittedly nice moments, like the retro-garagey riff on “She’s a Handsome Woman” and the pretty Mellotron-led introduction of “The Piano Knows Something I Don’t Know”, but I think my problem is that the melodies are, ironically, not 1960s-esque enough. It feels that despite the baroque/vaudeville stylistics, the musical skeletons are still a little too 2000s pop-punk (although that could be just Urie’s vocals distracting me so much), so it all just kinda cancels out on each other. It’s psychedelic in form, but only partially there in spirit, definitely not on the level of Psonic Psunspot, hell, not even on the level of Congratulations.
Still, I do appreciate Pretty. Odd.’s existence overall and the band’s attempt to go against the grain of their image and try something radically different. Being the obstinate psychedelia/art rock fanatic that I am, I wouldn’t mind to see more out-of-left-field 1960s psych-loving music out there, amidst the 1980s nostalgia that’s been currently going on. Also this review’s probably the longest one I’ve written so far, so thanks for that, Eric 😛
P.S. The music video for “Nine in the Afternoon” is possibly worth seeing, if only for the over-the-top (faux-)1960s oddness of it all.