You have to admire Brendon Urie's tenacity. His ability to persevere, in addition to his immaculate showmanship and ability to take control of any audience, as well as his unbelievably ridiculous vocal register, are all key elements that make up the current incarnation of Panic! At The Disco. Urie went from being in a four-person band, with every member completely known and recognizable, to being the only member of the band within a span of four records. Touring members Dallon Weekes (bass) and Kenneth Harris (guitar) have helped solidify the lineup, but Urie is the principle songwriter, and went on to take that position among a lot of obstacles.
Panic! At The Disco will be bringing their invigorating stage show to Shoreline Amphitheater this Sunday, July 31. Join us as we take a brief look back at all five of the albums the band has released thus far.
A Fever You Can't Sweat Out
Release Date: September 27, 2005
Label: Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen
Producer: Matt Squire & Panic! At The Disco
Ryan Ross - lead guitar, backing vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, programming, organ, piano, accordion
Brendon Urie - lead vocals, rhythm guitar, bass guitars, keyboards, piano, synthesizers
Spencer Smith - drums/percussion, glockenspiel
Brent Wilson - bass guitar
Editor's note: So rarely does an album come along for anyone that changes the way they approach music, listen to it, and look at it. A Fever You Can't Sweat Out was one of those albums for me. While it pretty much goes against every conventional means of what the recording industry thinks it takes for a group of musicians to make a great studio record, they managed to make something so strangely and ridiculously beautiful upon execution that it's still one of their most highly revered albums to this day.
After forming in Las Vegas, NV in 2004 and posting a few demos online, guitarist Ryan Ross was contacted by Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz, whom was in the process of starting his own label amid the success of his own band. The band were signed to Wentz imprint label, Decaydance, without having ever recorded an album or played live together. Every member of the band was still in high school at the time of the signing except for Ross, who dropped out of the University of Nevada in order to pursue the band full-time.
Upon graduation from high school, the band arrived at SOMD! Studios in College Park, Maryland to record the album that would change their lives. The entire record was created (as in written, recorded, mixed and mastered) within a period of three and a half weeks, on a budget of $11,000. The band remarked that the recording period for Fever was rather stressful. 14 hour days persisted for five weeks, and everyone lived in a one-bedroom basement studio apartment...and slept in bunk beds. Not the best atmosphere.
Regardless, the album proved to be a masterpiece, given everything the band endured as a creative challenge. Nothing quite like it had been heard at that point in time. The first half of the record features more electronic elements, whereas the second album uses more traditional instruments while employing more of a Vaudvilian, yet cinematic, style of music.
The lyrics on the record showcased how unbelievably powerful and intricate of a songwriter Ryan Ross was. Many Chuck Palahniuk references were present on the record. For example, the second track is called "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage", which is a quote yielding from his novel Survivor. Many literary references were present throughout the record, leading fans to go forward and dissect the lyrics more.
The result of the album was monumental, and I don't even think Pete Wentz expected it. A Fever You Can't Sweat Out went on to achieve double platinum status, spending 66 weeks on the Billboard 200. Critical reviews were split down the middle upon its release; some loved it while others despised it. But one thing was certain: their tours and appearances got bigger and bigger each week. By 2006, one year after releasing the record, the band were headlining arenas.
Release Date: March 25, 2008
Label: Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen
Producer: Hearth Rob Mathes
Ryan Ross - guitars, vocals, harmonica, keyboards, piano
Brendon Urie - vocals, guitars, piano, keyboards, organ, harpsichord, ukulele, bass
Jon Walker - bass guitars, guitars, backing vocals
Spencer Smith - drums/percussion, backing vocals
It's natural for a band to take a couple steps in a different direction when they make a record. Panic! At The Disco (actually, Panic At The Disco) took about twenty steps in a direction no one saw them going. This is something that makes them highly appealing though.
Fast forward to the massive success of A Fever You Can't Sweat Out. They were in the limelight and literally all eyes were on them. After the mind-blowing Nothing Rhymes With Circus Tour concluded, the band re-grouped and began working on ideas for their sophomore record. They opted to go into a cabin in the mountains of Mount Charleston, NV so that they could properly isolate themselves and get to work. After one month, the band had four songs and were ready to head to Los Angeles. As opposed to AFYCSA, everyone in the band would have a say in the writing process this time around.
In June 2007, the band were back in Los Angeles and recording began. Eight new songs had now presented themselves. They picked producer Rob Mathes to work with them (he worked with the band on their cover of "This Is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas). Things were settling in and looking good!
And then...they scrapped the entire record. It was August. It was three-quarters of the way done.
In September 2007, the band continued writing and started over. Seven new songs had been written, and the band had a much better outlook on them. They entered the studio at The Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas to begin recording, with Ross noting to the press that they were going for a far more stripped down, classic rock feel . The final song recorded at the end of the year was "Mad As Rabbits", the last track on the album.
In January 2008, the band went to record at Abbey Road Studios in London, where they tracked the strings and horns that we hear on the album. Mathes arranged and conducted the orchestra that we hear on Pretty. Odd. for each track except "Nine In The Afternoon". Many different sounds are heard throughout the record, marking a huge period of experimentation. There was no clear vision or direction with the record. It is maintained by nearly everyone that Pretty. Odd. is the most ambitious record Panic At The Disco have done to date (and without that exclamation point, might I add.)
Upon its initial release, fans were confused. People weren't sure what to think. Critics were mixed in their reviews of the record. The album peaked at number 2 on the Billboard 200 upon its release, and has been certified Gold. It has since generated a cult following among fans, and it remains the band's most eclectic record to date.
Here's the thing: upon further listening, a majority of the songs on Pretty. Odd. really are fantastic. Maybe it just came out at the wrong time. Maybe everyone was expecting Fever 2.0 (which we actually sort of got with Death Of a Bachelor). Take it or leave it, Pretty. Odd. is what it is, and you have to admit how ballsy and admirable it was for a band at the top of the world to defy the expectations of all of those that would be paying attention.
Vices & Virtues
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Label: Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen
Producer: John Feldmann & Butch Walker
Brendon Urie - lead vocals, backing bocals, lead and rhythm guitar, bass, piano, keyboards, synthesizers, programming
Spencer Smith - drums/percussion, marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, tambourine, vibraslap, cabasa, shakers
Here's that one period of time in a band's history that no one really likes to talk about: the dreaded lineup change. To say that there wasn't a shift in the band when Ryan Ross and Jon Walker left the band in 2009 would be a severe understatement. While the band all contributed to writing on Pretty. Odd., Ross was the primary lyricist and songwriter for the band. This was a major shift. Urie now had to be the one to take the reigns (the split was amicable, though.)
The band were basically operating on two different spectrums. Ross and Walker wanted to explore more of a classic rock sound, while Urie and Smith wanted to explore more of their pop-rock sensibilities. This led to the production of the album taking much longer than expected, though. The band were recording ideas and even managed to do the Blink-182 reunion tour in August 2009.
Recording did not officially begin until April 2010, however. While the album was produced by superstar producers John Feldmann and Butch Walker, the band received inspiration and encouragement from Rob Mathes.
The album was received with slightly better reviews, debuting at number seven on the Billboard 200, selling 57,000 copies in its first week. Critics went on to say that Vices & Virtues had the "upbeat pop energy of A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, with the focus and clarity of Pretty. Odd."
Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Label: Decayadance/Fueled By Ramen
Producer: Butch Walker
Brendon Urie - lead vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards, synthesizers, vocoder
Dallon Weekes - bass guitar, keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, baritone guitar, vocals
Spencer Smith - drums/percussion
This could very well be one of the most important records in Panic! At The Disco's arsenal, because it was the beginning of what would become a new era for the band. Shortly before the release of Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die, Spencer Smith, one of the founding members of the band, stepped down from the band. The split was, once again, amicable, but this means that Urie was the only member remaining. Dallon Weekes took on duties playing bass guitar and recording, but this is the only record of P!ATD where he is featured as an official member.
Musically, there is a stylistic change, in the sense that Urie was inspired by hip-hop and the montra that there were no rules when it came to writing. It's a highly eclectic album, pulling inspiration from Hunter S. Thompson novels, electronic composers like Kratwerk and Wendy Carlos, and modern pop and indie music. The lyrics were heavily inspired by the band's hometown of Las Vegas, which they had originally loathed before returning and finding a plethora of writing inspiration.
The album received highly positive critical reception, and premiered at number two on the Billboard 200. It sold 84,000 copies in its first week, a major step up from Vices & Virtues. It has since sold 407,000 copies in the United States alone since January 2016.
Death of a Bachelor
Release Date: January 15, 2016
Label: Fueled By Ramen/DCD2
Producer: Brendon Urie, Jake Sinclair, JR Rotem, and Imad Royal
Brendon Urie - vocals, guitar bass, drums (expect "Hallelujah")
Vocalist Urie was finally the sole member of the band, and the music was about to take on a very new change. Death of a Bachelor is the newest incarnation of Panic! At The Disco. The entire album was written in Brendon's house, and reflected a very different lifestyle than what Urie was used to living, now that he was (and is) married to the love of his life, Sarah.
Urie opted to work with a few different producers on tracks this time around, playing all of the instruments on the album minus the horns.
The album was the closest to A Fever You Can't Sweat Out 2.0 that fans have gotten, and it's a beautiful recorded piece of work. Influences from Frank Sinatra to Beyonce present themselves, and oddly, they work in ways you'd never think possible.
While the album was met with mixed reviews by critics, it has been a massive success among fans. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 190,000 units in album sales. The album has sold nearly 400,000 copies as of this month.
And here we are: the modern incarnation of the Panic! At The Disco, and perhaps the most successful iteration of the band and their original vision since A Fever You Can't Sweat Out. Gone are the circus outfits and costumes, and in its place, Urie & Co. don fine suits bringing to life the tracks that have spanned the past five albums in the band's career. While they may look a bit different, every song is refined and sounds the best they've ever sounded.
Regardless of what you think, Panic! At The Disco is a band that is consistently refining itself, whether through a change in lineup, a song style, or lyrical inspiration. It's why they've continued to stay as relevant as they have today, and why they can co-headline amphitheaters and sell out shows across the country to this day. The music speaks for itself, and should you ever get the chance, experience them live for yourselves. You'll be entertained to the highest degree. We guarantee it, or your money back! (Okay, we can't give you money back. We don't control that aspect of it. The point is they're really damn good. Just take our word for it.)
Panic! At The Disco
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