Review Summary: Gimmicky, whiny, repetitious & pretentious, this album is easy to dislike. Yet it succeeds as catchy pop music with something just a little bit different and very little filler.
Whether it be sporting identities, actors or musicians, the majority of people will dislike some spotlighted stars despite the fact that they do not know them personally. It may be due to the frequent times that a musician is arrested, yet escapes jail time. Maybe it is the number of women that the star actor reportedly beds. Or it could even be the sneaky late hit that a sportsman gets in when the referee is not looking. The members of Panic! At The Disco (PATD) don’t fall into any of these categories, but it can definitely be seen why they are so easy to dislike.
It could be the extra-long song titles that attempt humor… The use of many lyrics that the majority of the band’s target audience wouldn’t understand… The predominantly whiny vocals that dominate way too much… The unashamed gimmicks that try to make the songs (and entire album) better than they are… The strange mish-mashes of genres that are included throughout… Or the repetitious nature of many of the tracks. The scary thing is that the list could be continued! Yet, it is difficult to dislike this band or album too much.
Firstly, to one of those gimmicks; The album is split into 2 parts… Tracks 1-7 feature backing instruments such as drum machines and synthesizers that lead to all sorts of different background sounds. Meanwhile, tracks 9-13 use old fashioned types of instruments such as accordions, horns and a vaudevillian piano. These 2 sections are linked by an overlong instrumental ‘Intermission’ (track 8) that begins as a techno loop and then works its way into a piano solo. While this all sounds elaborate & clever, it is really a way to try and distinguish tracks that aren’t individual enough to be distinguished in the first place.
So where are the positives you might ask? Well, put simply, there is very little in terms of filler and there is a catchiness that resonates through this album that is just too difficult to ignore. And here is the contradiction; It is probably derived from the aforementioned gimmicky music, over-the-top lyrics and/or whiny vocals. But on reflection, isn’t that what pop music is at its best anyway? That is exactly what some of the best pop music ever has in common with this album; When broken down into separate components, it fails many tests. But when it is all constructed together as one, the result is that you end up singing or humming songs for days on end.
Looking at individual tracks, ‘The Only Difference…’ (which was actually released as the 1st single) is rather catchy, but its mechanized breakdown derails it. The following ‘London Beckoned Songs…’ is not too dissimilar, but better since it is energetic, rockier and more up-tempo. Like many tracks off the album, it packs many ideas into a duration not much over 3 minutes worth. ‘Time To Dance’ is also noteworthy as it uses the first half gimmick well to form a rather dancey song performed at a breakneck pace. Acting as the lead-in to the aforementioned intermission, 4th single ‘Lying Is The Most Fun…’ tones down the electronica and the more standard approach is a welcome variation compared to what has preceded it.
The cheekily titled 3rd single ‘But It’s Better If You Do’ completes a sentence and kicks off the old-fashioned instruments half with a solid, if unspectacular track. The album’s highlight ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies’ is an involving, memorable and catchy retelling of a wedding day gone wrong. ‘There’s A Good Reason…’ is an effective comedic effort that is pushed along by a piano loop and a successful horn solo of a breakdown. Finally, closer and 5th single ‘Build God, Then We’ll Talk’ is atmospheric and accessible with yet another catchy chorus and practically 2 breakdowns (1 vocal & 1 musical).
Of course, with the amount of ideas that PATD throw at us on this 40 minute debut, there was always going to be some disasters. They do very well to keep the count at 2 though with 1 track in each half simply being ineffective. These are the grating ‘Nails For Breakfasts, Tack For Snacks’ and the superficial mish-mash that is ‘I Constantly Thank God For Esteban’.
Listeners may be forced to choose sides regarding PATD’s debut release; Love or Hate. While the rating suggests some fence-sitting, I (arguably bravely… or foolishly) admit to being in the positive camp if anything. However, there are simply too many things wrong with the album to rate it too highly. Of course, whether all these traits & tricks will succeed on future albums has to be heavily debatable. But for now, it is best just to enjoy this debut album for what it is; Catchy pop music with something just a little bit different.
Recommended Tracks: I Write Sins Not Tragedies, London Beckoned Songs About Money Written by Machines, Build God Then We’ll Talk & Lying is the Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off.