Review Summary: A tepid effort.
Ah, the inimitable Mr. Brendon Urie.
Here was a man on whom pop could dare to pin it's hopes and dreams. Panic! at the Disco struck frontman gold in he who had the innovation to create an impossible blend of progressive sensibilities and sing-a-long catchiness, the brilliance to infuse that with delightfully cynical humor, and the chops to one-up the result with flamboyance, genuine confidence and charisma. Dude just seemed to good to be true. Then, when after 2 tight and formidable albums half his crew left him to rot, Brendon pulled together the pitiful remains of his band and, against all odds, single-handedly crafted a third solid release (of course Spencer helped too, yes). Few have been tried in the mainstream while maintaining such credibility, but Mr. Urie, god bless his soul, seemed determined to be the exception.
It's unfortunate that P!atd has always had to live in the shadow of expectations, but to divert this drastically from them is a highly confusing move on their part. Where A Fever
and Vices and Virtues
worked because of the band's adamant choice to be highly irregular, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!
is, ironically, just not that interesting. P!atd seem to become more accessible with each release, but that until now has never been a bad thing because they've managed to keep their depth and signature idiosyncrasy. Drama is made potent by complexity, and P!atd misses the mark this time by choosing to be more minimalistic and straightforward, which makes their work feel kitsch. Take for example Miss Jackson
, which packs a killer hook in the chorus which melds well with smooth guest vocals, but has nothing much else to justify it's 4-minute run time – and a bridge that consists of nothing but silence and steel-on-steel sound effects doesn't help at all. Collar Full
, with springy synths obviously meant to sound colorfully eccentric come off as just weird among cheesy choruses and a boring beat, fails for the same reason. Efforts to reinvent themselves are not totally lacking in P!atd's 4th, but such attempts seem unfocused and misguided. Crackly samples and crowd vocals are in abundance but come off as secondary and pointless because of the lack of ingenuity in the music itself.
No mention of P!atd would be complete without a good look at Mr. Urie, but any of his supposed genius, which should be all the more obvious now that he's practically 70% of the band itself, is nowhere to be seen. Nicotine
segues into being with an interesting riff, but then follows up with an incredibly typical beat and slowly deforms into a racy One Direction track with a little Latino influence in the mix. Girls/Girls/Boys
plays like pot-infused alien disco music with vocals that just seem bored. Brendon has a real penchant for being bizarre, coupled with a credible multi-instrumental and vocal proficiency, but hardly shows it at all. This affliction on their artistic direction isn't helped by the other 30% - Mr. Spencer Smith's obsession with drum machines paints the album in a cheap, discolored sheen, and in both tracks above he is practically undiscernable. P!atd's failings are especially obvious in moments where they build up to climaxes, but little more than repetition. Moments where the duo buckle down to produce something resembling a jam or any such displays of musicianship are simply too brief, like in Far Too Young to Die
, where after a whole 3 minutes of build up we get about 20 seconds of something really worth our attention before it all just vanishes abruptly.
On that note, it's tragic to admit that P!atd's 4th does in fact showcase moments of real brilliance and potential among the mess, which unfortunately disappear too quickly after materialization, and are spread too thin throughout the album's already diminutive running time. Casual Affair
is a track which really has its moments, where the sleazy dub-step backing beat collides with guitars in overdrive, and Brendon's voice soars overhead in a tone that inexplicably approaches heroic. This is Gospel
is a triumph of an opener, with grandiose yet tongue-in-cheek lyrics and small doses of pop-punk sensibilities that come together in a bombastic chorus that lives up to the band's reputation. It's a track that resonates with the promise of what this album could have been if done well.
For all it's promise, the vast majority of Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!
is easily digestible, dilutable and forgettable. Countless attempts at risqué come across as detached, and detachment just doesn't work well for the collaboration of Urie and Smith; by trying come across as intentionally careless, P!atd on the whole simply achieve mediocrity, simply because being expressive has always been their greatest strength. It would be truly disappointing never to see them show it again.