Album Review: Panic At The Disco, Pretty Odd by Mark Wong. 

Pretty Odd is the second album from Panic at the Disco. The album shows a drastic change from its predecessor A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out as it takes on more musical genres and incorporates a diverse range of instruments. The interesting thing that happened with this album in the pre-production stage is that guitarist Ryan Ross scrapped all of the original recordings they had and decided to start again, completely fresh. This daring decision could have smashed their musical reputation to smithereens, but as a result it paid off and proved how the band didn’t need to depend on a typical formula to be relevant to their fanbase. Welcome to the bizarre world of Pretty Odd!

Tongue in cheek

The tongue in cheek opener We’re So Starving is an apology letter to fans who waited a long time for the anticipated sequel album with the lyrics “Oh how it’s been so long / We’re so sorry we’ve been gone / We were busy writing songs for you.” However the first thing that becomes apparent is the immense variety of instruments. The violin sections provide rich and gorgeous musical textures. The chanting audience that’s heard in the background suggests that Panic have taken influences from prog rock concept albums such as The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band where similar techniques were used to reinforce the points of their narratives.

Nine In the Afternoon continues the themes of the recording process “Back to the street, down to our feet / Losing the feeling of feeling unique, do you know what I mean?” The warm brass sections serve as a great backbone to the choruses, which as a result adds more musical depth to the quirky nature of Nine In the Afternoon.

Organic chemistry

Due to some parts of the album being recorded at Abbey Road Studios, the organic chemistry of Northern Downpour makes you feel the magical creativity that surrounds the legendary studio. When The Day Met The Night has characteristics of Indian music, which can be heard through a guitar that sounds very similar to a sitar. It’s almost as if Ryan Ross is trying to emulate the musical diversity that Beatles’ guitarist George Harrison demonstrated so effortlessly in their 1967 song Within You Without You. The infectious chorus has a fantastical element to it, which is reflected in the lyrics “In the middle of summer / All was golden in the sky / All was golden when the day met the night.”

The album also applies different musical rhythms, which can be heard in Pas De Cheval which mimics the sound of a galloping horse. The elegant Shakespearian-esque She Had The World tackles the subject of ruined romances “She said she’d won the world at a carnival / But she could never win me cause she couldn’t ever catch me”. The track has flavours of Baroque pop, which is heard through the delicate harpsichord that underpins it.

Space and clarity

One thing that the album achieves really well overall is the way it uses the stereo image to its advantage, which adds an interesting dynamic. This is highlighted through tracks like Mad As Rabbits where hard panning is used to emphasise the space and clarity of instruments. This musical production can be compared to the techniques that were pioneered by Brian Wilson on innovative albums like The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.

In conclusion, Pretty Odd is an absolute triumph that redefined the musical capabilities of Panic at the Disco. Despite the amount of confusion that often comes on the first listen, Panic at the Disco’s decision to welcome new musical genres into their back catalogue is a stoke of genius that serves as the album’s focal point. It proves how ambitious they were with this record as they broke the normal band convention of sticking to the same musical formula for a follow up album. As Pretty Odd was the last album that featured guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker, it often poses the question of what the sound of Panic at the Disco could have become if they had continued with this musical approach.