Panic (!?) At The Disco kicks off Pretty. Odd. with a promise and a plea. “You don’t have to worry,” trills lead singer Brendan Urie. “We’re still the same band.” It’s not a lie, but it’s not exactly the truth either. Though they have retained the hallmark spoonerism song titles and wonky time signature changes, Panic aren’t the same band that made us bounce around in our cars with their dance party debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. Instead of continuing to ride Fall Out Boy’s ever-more-tattered coattails (which surely would have guaranteed the band a spot on the “Where Are They Now” VHI special, circa 2020) Panic have forgone the 21st century brat act for a nostalgic spin on the Magical Mystery Tour.

Pretty. Odd. takes its cues directly from the classics. Layered vocals and swirling strings straight out of Abbey Road (literally: they were recorded at Abbey Road) have replaced the electro-attack that originally buttered the nascent band’s bread and, waddayaknow, Panic actually make a pretty good classic rock band. The Beatles, the Kinks, the Stones, and especially Love mastermind Arthur Lee are obvious, audible influences on cuts like the melodically quirky “She’s a Handsome Woman” and the expansive first single “Nine in the Afternoon”. Panic’s growing musical proficiency allows them to pay homage the greats without sounding like total posers. On “The Green Gentleman”, the best track on the record, lead guitarist Ryan Ross delivers Harrisonesque guitar solos so convincing one wonders if he has taken precautions to shield his lady friend from the amorous advances of Eric Clapton. Singer Urie has one of the most distinctive, evocative male voices on modern radio, but thankfully isn’t afraid to whoop and holler like the 20 year old he is, which gives the record a sense of gee-whiz enthusiasm to lighten the mood when Rob Mathes overcooks the production.

Like all bands that call Las Vegas home, Panic are showmen at heart and have infused Pretty. Odd. with a bombastic bravado that recalls the Electric Light Orchestra. The album just sounds huge and one cannot help but applaud the band’s ambition when the choral bells start chiming in “The Piano Knows Something I Don’t”. However their admirable sense of adventure fails them on tracks that borrow too heavily from musical genres unsuitable to the band, such as the country clunker “Folkin’ Around” and the soppy ballad “Northern Downpour”, but 2 out 15 ain’t bad at all. Panic At The Disco have made a solid, thouroughly enjoyable 60’s style record with a welcome serving of youthful cajones. That said, they need a little more time communing with the record collection before they paint their masterpiece.

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