Three years after a little band from Nevada made their stunning debut with A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, a follow-up landed serenely into our laps.
Panic's second record, Pretty. Odd, departed sharply from their ultra industrial debut album and veered sweetly more toward a sound and aesthetic that they would come to lose on their third release.
I was 15 when I first saw Panic! At The Disco live. They were touring Pretty. Odd. and I remember thinking that it has been one of the best nights of my life. I had every lyric tattooed on the inside of my brain and didn't even mind that The Hush Sound was their opening act (what ever happened to the Hush Sound?).
Even now, Pretty. Odd. has a certain ethereal and transcendent quality that leaves its predecessor and follow-up in the dust.
It's a pretty controversial statement to make. To say that Pretty. Odd. is the best Panic! release when the last decade has yielded an incredibly strong body of work. But it's the truth. Panic have never been stronger lyricists than on this album. The composition and execution on Pretty. Odd. is Panic's most cohesive and, somehow, most eclectic.
Pretty.Odd's imagery is stunning. From the moon and stars to vivid allegory, the boys (mainly Ryan Ross) conjure up small fairy tales and whimsical stories that stick long after the tune has finished.
Many lyrics from Pretty. Odd. read more like stanzas from secret poems than they do songs. Take "Northern Downpour" (one of the strongest on the record).
The ink is running toward the pageNorthern Downpour
It’s chasing off the days
Look back at both feet and that winding knee
I missed your skin when you were east
You clicked your heels and wished for me
The album continues on in a similar fashion, carefully constructing this active imagery, along with the music, that somehow vacillates wildly between happy and melancholia.
Modern Panic! is a big to-do; huge choruses, trumpets, bass that just won't quit. This version of Panic! explored violins, harmonicas, organ, the mandolin and even a wurlitzer in ways that we haven't quite heard since.
Even a cursory listen to "Hallelujah" reveals just a hint of "Mad As Rabbits" (especially at the start) in the same way Vices and Virtues' "Always" could have certainly appeared on Pretty.Odd. Yeah, that's right. I said it. Pretty. Odd. was so influential that it influenced (and still influences) Panic's later work.
Today most of the material from Pretty.Odd has been cut out of Panic's live shows (save for "Nine In The Afternoon"). Something tells me that the album's complexity (and the fact that Ryan Ross wrote most of it) makes it nearly impossible to play live. But even so, part of me hopes that Brendon, from time to time, returns to Pretty.Odd. the way that I do because it is literally their best album.
Your honour, I rest my case.