For many people, looking back at Panic! at the Disco in their early stages is like glimpsing into their teenage years: They were the typical young, emo punk band. They dressed the part, wearing eccentric outfits with a hint of Vaudeville and steampunk, all accompanied by dark, long haircuts and guyliner.
It’s apparent in their first album in the conspicuous cover of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. It shows a worn, beaten up image featuring five characters and various parts of their bodies that look as if they were cut and pasted. Many could argue that it is representative of the band’s social issues scattered around the album. Some may think it means nothing. What is certain is the eccentricity of it all. Though this was the start of their identity, it was certainly not the end. Panic! has gone through many changes, between losing and gaining band members (as well as the exclamation point in their name) and altering their sound on each album.
Opening their debut is the track “Introduction”, which speaks for itself, as does “Intermission”, found near halfway into the album. It really indicates how different the group wanted to be, and gives a glimpse into the rest of the tracks with sounding like a radio tuning into the different channels, or in this case each song.
The real introduction comes in the form of “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage” with lyrics that are an obvious message to listeners. They “swear to shake it up,” which is repeated multiple times; it speaks to message constantly emitted by the pop punk scene that the media often preludes bands forming their own opinions, rather it invites the listener to listen without preconceptions. It describes them to a T, and the band has continued with this ideal to this day, even though their style has evolved over the years.
Heavy guitar and a good balance with drums and lyrics really invites everyone into “London Beckoned Songs About Money Written by Machines” has a similar message to the aforementioned song but changes it up with a stylistic changes. Strong messages come through the songs, and this theme has carried all the way to the most recent album, Death of a Bachelor. It is without doubt one of the most unrivaled things that has made Panic unforgettable.
In the beginning, Brendon Urie started out as Panic’s guitarist and co-songwriter before he transitioned into their lead singer. Now, he reigns as the sole remaining member and even played almost all the instruments on the most recent album, Death of a Bachelor.
However it shows how through the years, Urie has been a vital asset, and he continues to carry on the legacy Panic! established when they first came out. One of the songs he helpedto write, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”, broke them into the scene and has become one of the most recognizable tracks of the late 2000’s. The song’s vaudeville and circus themed music video is one of the best of the era, and completely defined the band.
The story line of the music video fits perfectly with the lyrics and illustrates them with a wedding scene. Urie takes on the role of the groom’s alter ego— the ringmaster of the circus. In the video, Urie encourages hecticness as the song gathers momentum with the introduction of more instruments. The ingenuity of the cello riff in the beginning was a new twist on typical punk songs, as orchestral instruments are not often seen in this genre. Originality and theatricality are obvious, and has skyrocketed Panic to fame.
Putting Panic! At The Disco into a specific genre is probably the biggest obstacles many critics have, but I see it as an advantage for the group. They haven’t been bound by any expectations of their sound. Rather, they have built the expectations for their listeners, and surprise them with each album.
A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out has a good variety between each track, but throughout their history has changed things up every new release and have kept surprising fans every time. Songs such as “There’s A Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought Of It Yet” and “Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off” have similar sounds and speak of relationships with women, often based on different band members experiences (yet another reason their lyrics tend to be brutally honest and appealing). Related recent numbers are “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” and “Miss Jackson”, retaining the edginess so indigenous yet introducing more electronic instruments and focusing on Urie’s vocals.
Since 2005, they have released four studio recorded albums and one live album, and lost three of the original members along the way. However, they are consistent in producing quality music while being able to live up to their legacy set up by their debut album.
A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out set the tone for the band, pushing them to have a strong fan base and continual support. They have continued to tour, with just Brendon Urie now heading everything up and are doing exceedingly well, even without the three other founding members. Like their contemporaries Fall Out Boy, and Paramore, they have taken the torch of leading a new wave of music and defining alternative.