“This is gospel for the fallen ones…”
These eight little words open Panic at the Disco’s new album Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die, out today, and sets the tone for the record while easing fans into the sonically dark record with a song that’s reminiscent of 2011’s Vices and Virtues. From there the album takes a sonically dark turn while dancing on the edge of being a dance record. While the last record certainly had synths and dancy moments, this record takes these elements several steps farther with a strong 80s influence.
In fact, I kept imagining it as the playlist that would result from a venue getting double booked with Zombie Prom and 80’s night. More likely the synthesizers and baselines sound like the score to a stalker/slasher movie. The horror movie aesthetic is furthered with the stock audio on stranger danger, chanting children, and a flat lining heart monitor. Clearly I’m not the only one getting this impression as the videos “Miss Jackson” and “This is Gospel,” feature a beheading and a torture respectively.
Where past records would have been at home on a playlist with Fueled By Ramen label mates Fall Out Boy and Paramore, this one could harmoniously mix with The Gossip or Depeche Mode. This particular sonic influence is obvious on “Girl that You Love, ”Too Young to Die,” and “Casual Affair,” which are easily three of the best tracks on the record. “Casual Affair” has a throbbing baseline and lush echoing vocals that could translate to an epic live performance.
For the Panic fans that may be overwhelmed with this new sound, “This is Gospel” isn’t the only moment with a more conservative dose of dance. The most notable examples being “Nicotine” and “Collar Full.” There’s also album closer, “At the End of All Things” an Imogene Heap-esque autotuned piano ballad that stands very much in contrasts to the rest of the record.
All in all this is an interesting record and an unexpected direction, but the big question is how it will be received by audiences at large. It has the potential to alienate the longtime fans while the audiences that would probably most appreciate it may completely right it off simply because it’s Panic at the Disco, without regard for the record itself. We shall have to wait and see.