Hello there, and today I will be ranking every studio album by Las Vegas rock band Panic! At The Disco. Keep in mind that these are completely my opinions and that although you may absolutely comment your thoughts, there is no need to get upset about anything said here. So, without further ado, let’s begin.
- Pray For The Wicked, 2018
If you’re listening to this record as a critic, everything sounds fine. It’s pretty cohesive, lighthearted and fun. If you’re listening to this as a fan, though, this is a a huge downgrade to what Panic! is capable of. Upon hearing the first few singles, I was actually very interested in hearing the rest of the record and even drove to Target in my pajamas to get a physical copy. Unfortunately, since I’ve bought it, the CD has played through all the way maybe twice and has been sitting in my car untouched ever since because it’s really not worth more than a few listens. On the surface, everything sounds great; the album is based around a kind of baroque, Broadway feel and it’s very catchy and pop oriented. It’s very lively for the most part minus the ending song “Dying In LA” which is stripped down and piano based. Although everything seems to be well put together, I can’t help but feel like this album is just combined by pop goopiness and repetitive lyrics. To being with, after a while you’ll start to notice how the songs don’t really have any lyrics to speak of. “(Fuck A) Silver Lining” is literally almost the same exact thing for three minutes straight and becomes rather unbearable to listen to after a couple of tries because nothing changes, not even Uries vocals. “(Say Amen) Saturday Night” is the exact same unfortunate formula and like I said before, it doesn’t sound horrible the first time through but the repetition will drive you crazy after a while. To make matters worse, the lyrics are rather shallow once you actually get a chance to look into them. Inspiring isn’t the word that comes to mind, rather narcissistic and self centered are the words that I come to think of. “If I had one more day to wish / If I had one more day / To be better than I could have ever been / If I had one more day to wish / If I had one more day / I could be better, but, baby / Oh, it’s Saturday night, yeah” , “In the garden of evil/ I’m gonna be the greatest” , “If you lose / boo hoo”, don’t make much sense and are immature at best. “Say Amen” is credited to FIFTEEN writers and nobody could think of anything better to replace the “oh oh” parts with. Even the opening line in “Dancing’s Not A Crime” which goes “I’m a moonwalker / I’m like MJ up in the clouds / “I know it sounds awkward” explicitly says how graceless that track is. Brendon Urie doesn’t even dance. Yeah, that is awkward. If you thought the lyrics were bad enough, the actual music portion of the record isn’t much better. Realistically, the horns, various sounds and instrumentals are just filler for the record to make it seem better than it is. How do you make a piece of music sound somewhat interesting without really trying? Add a tiny horn section to spice things up because that works every time, right? No. The only track that isn’t “theatrical” heavy is “King Of The Clouds” which is more guitar and drum oriented and actually is pleasant to listen to. The record isn’t necessarily horrible in all aspects but after a short while, it all just sounds like filler. Coated in sugar and pop hooks, radio repetition and a knockoff theatrical vibe, Pray For The Wicked proves to be a disappointment from a band that has so much more to offer.
- Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!, 2013
2013 was a weird year for music and Panic! At The Disco kept it even weirder by embracing electronica and incorporating it into their sound. By the time this was released, Dallon Weeks had become Panic!’s official bassist and it was their second album after half of the band split off. This record can be perfectly described by it’s title; weird in the sense that it doesn’t fit the standard music for the time and is something new for the band and rare because we will probably never hear something like this from this band ever again. This is one that I very much enjoyed however I could never fully relish in the entire thing. This collection of songs has some great singles, some very good overlooked songs and some rather forgettable ones. These ten songs in all average out to be, well, an average record. The first few songs, “Miss Jackson” and “This Is Gospel” are very reminiscent of 2013’s Fall Out Boy although they have that Panic! At The Disco touch to them. Being very good single choices, these songs became instant fan favorites and I can’t deny that they truly are great songs. “Vegas Lights” is a direct tribute to the bands hometown in Nevada and is one of the best songs lyrically and musically on here. “Far Too Young To Die” is another one that is absolutely splendid in every way, from the synth intro that plays throughout to the lyrics to the buildup towards the end and the quick fadeout when everything’s over. This is possibly one of their most heavily overlooked and forgotten about songs. Even songs like “Girl That You Love”, “Girls / Girls / Boys” and “Casual Affair” are perfectly produced albeit more pop inspired, but somehow they don’t sound like sellouts. “Nicotine”, “Collar Full” and “The End Of All Things” are the only songs that are either hard to interpret or just downright irritating to listen to. Besides that, the only other complaint I have about this one is that even though it’s a change for the band, they don’t dive deep enough into that change. They stay rather safe with the production and single choices and I find that the full ambition to do electronic rock is missing from here.
- Death Of A Bachelor, 2016
DOAB is an album that I refused to listen to for a really long time and although I had loved all the singles released from this era, I never took a listen to the entire thing. With that being said, if I wanted to do a proper ranking of every one of Panic!’s albums, I had to take a listen to this one eventually. When that actually did happen, I caught myself thinking about why hadn’t I listened to this sooner. This is actually a very good attempt from the band (or Brendon Urie, I should say, because this was the first record released with him being the sole member of the band) and was definitely a step up from their previous attempt, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die. The vocals are cleaner and are the best Urie has ever sang, the music is back to being more rock oriented and although each song has a distinct feeling to it, Death Of A Bachelor remains a cohesive piece of work. We’ve got some really great arena anthem songs like “Emperors New Clothes”, “Crazy=Genius”, “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time”, “LA Devotee” and “Golden Days. On the other hand, we’ve also got a couple more personal, relaxed songs such as “Death Of A Bachelor” and “Impossible Year” to break up all the fast paced moments this record has to offer. The pop melodies on every song are absolutely wonderful, with lyrics that are just as fun to go with them (although, I have to say, I forget about the lyrics because the musical component is much more memorable). This entire thing feels mature but it also feels like the most adult fun you can ever have. It sounds very natural and unforced, and it seems like a very good representation of where Urie was in his life when this was put together. This kind of sound something we need more from the band and just goes to show that pop punk isn’t dead, it just sounds different nowadays. And if I’m being honest here, this record is genuinely so good it really feels like a crime rating it at #4; however, the top three records have so much more to offer than just pop hooks and that is the sole reason this record is ranked where it is.
- Vices & Virtues, 2011
Vices & Virtues is an album that I listened to heavily at a certain point in time and is one that I don’t particularly want to hear anymore. However, I can’t deny that this record is some of their best work, being the first release after the departure of Ryan Ross and Jon Walker. This left Bredon Urie and Spencer Smith now a two piece to take care of writing the lyrics (which were handled by Ross primarily on their past two records) and musical duties. They administered this rather well, writing almost the entire record themselves and only adding on a few other musicians to help with the instrumentation. Listening to this record after a very long hiatus from it actually makes me realize how much this kind of feels like a more grown up and polished version of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. This time however they’ve replaced all of the theatrical aspects from Fever with just plain, good rock. No more violins and cellos, we’ve got prominent drums and raging guitar parts instead. I really can’t even think of what genre this would fall into besides pop/rock but in reality, this record isn’t even that. It’s so much more than just pop rock. It’s also extremely cohesive that in all honesty, if I wasn’t aware that this was released after the band had split, I probably would not have known better otherwise. The album opens up with the energetic “The Ballad Of Mona Lisa” which begins with a dream like bell intro, afterwards leading us into “Let’s Kill Tonight” which is just as upbeat. Three songs in and they show no sign of stopping with “Hurricane” which starts with a small computer like tune and ends with a fancy piano and trumpet melody. It’s a strangely arranged track but nonetheless a phenomenal one. “Memories”, “Trade Mistakes” and “Ready To Go” all follow a similar rhythm although they are easily distinctly their own song and also follow the pattern of the other ones as being fast paced. “Always”, a mid tempo acoustic based song, comes along to give the listener a break to take a breath while the calendar sounds like an early 2000’s pop punk song (and honestly, I’m not even mad about it). “Sarah Smiles” brings us back to the original feel of the album as demonstrated by the first couple of tracks and includes trumpets, violins and full instrumental. The record ends with “Nearly Witches” which also follows the theme of the rest of the songs and ties together the entire album seamlessly. Besides being musically pleasant to listen to, Vices & Virtues is also very well put together in the lyrical department considering this was their first record without their primary lyricist. It feels very coming of age, mature and ahead of it’s time. The chorus to “Trade Mistakes” or the first two verses in “The Ballad Of Mona Lisa” and even the part that goes “You’ll dance to anything” on “Hurricane” demonstrate various vices or virtues (as marked by the title of the record). All things aside, my favorite part about this record is that Vices & Virtues is an album that’s full of life from a band that should have died out. The effort put forth on this one to keep the band going is apparent and extremely well executed.
- A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, 2005
Fever is such a weird record, especially as a debut. If we’re being real here, something like this should not have gone by as well as it did in the midst of the 2000’s pop punk takeover. Even though sometimes this is referred to as pop punk and “emo”, it’s more on the alternative rock side with a theatrical twist to it. It’s set up exactly like a traditional theatre show including an introduction and intermission, is split in two halves musically and sounds like it could be interpreted as an actual show and performed on stage as one. The entire thing was written by then guitarist Ryan Ross, with the musical component being taken care of by the rest of the band. This album contains their best known hit “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” which of course has that iconic circus like music video to go along with it. Fever is so exceptional in so many ways but I’m just going to start with the fact that the band was literally fresh out of high school when they put this together. As eighteen or nineteen year olds, they wrote and composed such an intricate yet delightful and interesting piece of work and that to this day is something I still can’t wrap my head around. Lyrically this record is absolutely beautiful; let’s get past the whole thing about the bride being a whore because there are so many better lines in here. “Raindrops on roses / And girls in white dresses…” from “Build God, Then We’ll Talk”, “Was it God who chokes in these situations, running late? / Oh, no He called in” from “Nails For Breakfast, Tacks For Snacks” and “Can’t take the kid from the fight / Take the fight from the kid” from “Camisdao” just to name a few. The lyrical component is rather somber if you take a closer look but the way everything is put together with the music it all makes it seem like the most pleasant nightmare. As I said previously, this was a strange way to debut a band in terms of music and although at first listen it may sound oversaturated, the pop rock hooks will undeniably make you interested to listen again. Although there is quite a lot to unpack here, the entire process is actually very fun once you get listening. Songs like “But It’s Better If You Do”, “I Constantly Thank God For Esteban” and “There’s A Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought Of It Yet” are basically made to make you want to dance like a monkey whether you’re by yourself or in public. “Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off” is one of the best composed tracks, with varying tempos that never seem to become unbearable. “Introduction” and “Intermission” are also rather listenable proving that there really isn’t a boring moment on here. Along with all the other amazing moments on this record, the best part of it all is quite possibly the ending song “Build God”. It’s set up in 4/4 time but changes to a waltz during the chorus (I’m sure most other 18 year olds don’t even know what a waltz is) and the violin solo which consists of the chorus melody is undeniably the best 30 seconds on the entire record. Angst-y but poised, Panic! At The Disco made their dazzling debut in the midst of the punk rock takeover and all I can say is that they made an entrance and they sure made it well.
- Pretty. Odd., 2008
Pretty odd is right. With the release of their second record in 2008, three years after their first, Panic! shook things up but we swore to listen so here we are. With Fever being a theatrical rollercoaster of a record, P. O. went in the complete opposite direction, being more folk inspired. The sound of Pretty. Odd. was primarily influenced by The Beatles and what’s great about it is that it’s not a complete rip off. I find that when an artist is “influenced” by another artist, they sound almost identical to them and lose their sense of identity. However, although Panic! might seem to have lost their marbles with this record, they still know exactly who they are. (They also lost the exclamation point from their band name but that’s a different story). Being one of the most dramatic changes in music history, Pretty. Odd. was (and still is) an incredibly influential album. Fever was daring and bold in it’s own right but P.O. takes it a step further. By going in a completely different direction than where they began, this band has shown us that they’re not only talented musicians but also that they’re capable of really anything. Pretty. Odd. is set up rather similarly to Fever in the sense that most of the songs blend together to make the album feel like one piece of work rather than fifteen individual songs. The way “We’re So Starving” moves seamlessly into “Nine In The Afternoon” and how “I Have Friends In Holy Spaces” transitions into “Northern Downpour” is beautiful in so many ways. To go along with that, the way the lyrics are written to portray a variety of stories is so mesmerizing and with all the songs moving together, it feels like one big story book instead of fifteen individual tales. Some of my absolute favorites happen to be “Pas De Cheval” written about a narcissist, “Mad As Rabbits” which talks about a man who has gone completely crazy, “That Green Gentleman” portraying a picture of friendship and acceptance and “Do You See What I’m Seeing?” which perfectly represents the album and is an ode to the weather on a nice day. Musically, this one is so organic with instruments such as harmonicas, mandolins, pianos, and a plethora of horns. It’s so calm yet so full of life and there’s really not a single occasion that will have the listener yawning. One of my other absolute favorite things about this album in particular is that Pretty. Odd. felt more like a complete band effort. Ryan Ross sings quite a lot on here, providing vocals on almost the entirely of “Behind The Sea” and is not the sole lyricist this time. Urie wrote two whole songs by himself and bassist Jon Walker has plenty of songwriting credits as well. Even the music videos this time around were so much more inclusive of the other band members instead of just putting lead singer Urie front and center. Everything about this era represents all of the best things rock music has to offer; good music, good friends and good times.