Review Summary: Stepping out from behind the shadows of Brendan Urie and Ronnie Radke.
After Panic! At the Disco (P!ATD) fractured in two due to artistic differences, Brendan Urie and Spencer Smith needed some new members. They quickly recruited Dallon Weekes as a touring musician. Eventually, Weekes was upgraded to a full-time member and helped the band write their 4th album, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!. Unfortunately this upgrade would be short-lived and soon after Spencer Smith departed the band, Dallon would be demoted back down to touring member due to “creative differences” with Brendan Urie. This left Brendan as the sole remaining official member of P!ATD. Soon after, Dallon would officially leave the band and re-unite with his old friend Ryan Seaman (formerly of Falling in Reverse). The two would begin touring and working on a project Dallon had began writing back in 2009, I Don’t Know How But They Found Me (stylized iDKHOW).
No longer standing in the background (literally, go check out Dallon wearing a mask and standing behind Brendan and Spencer on P!ATD’s Vices & Virtues album cover), Dallon takes a commanding lead with iDKHOW’s first full length LP. Undeniably catchy, synth-pop is the name of the game and the album bursts open with lead single “Leave Me Alone”. From the onset is clear the influences that have been pulled from P!ATD, but it is also clear they will not be taking the same approach. The pop aspects are in your face, merging a refreshing take on 80's revival and shamelessly drawing influences from other notable contemporaries such as The 1975. The songs follow a straight-forward and un-apologetically standard, structure, but are filled to the brim with an excitement that is sure to maintain interest.
The album does not fall flat instrumentally, incorporating keys, horns, bass and impressive drumming throughout. The outro of “Razzmatazz” perfectly demonstrates the duos ability to create an absolute jam, while maintaining their accessible and dance-y sound. The band's main strengths are in their over-the-top pop tracks such as “Leave Me Alone”, “New Invention” and “Sugar Pills”. While not having particularly strong lyrics, the tracks are carried by a knack for catchy choruses, crisp production and refined singing. The band occasionally overdo their glossy, polished sound with some unnecessary additions (we could do without the robot voice in “From the Gallows” and the little kid talking in “Need You Here”), but for the most part the theatrical sound works. Throughout the bombastic pop-tracks, some moments of reserve are shown in the piano-led tracks such as the beautiful, but short “Door” and the less effective “Nobody Likes the Opening Band”.
The shining aspect of this album is the confidence exhibited by this new group. Despite neither having the opportunity to be front and center in the past, their years of experience touring has paid off to make them sound like dignified veterans. Dallon already matches the confidence of former bandmate Brendan Urie, but has far more left to say and do then just churn out radio-fodder. Both Dallon and Ryan’s voices sound phenomenal and the two must feel liberated to be leading the charge rather than just falling in line. Given the strength of this debut album and the high level of accessibility, I anticipate to continue seeing iDKHOW pick up steam.