Image: Wikimedia Commons

Panic! at the Disco – 10 years of Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!

In January of 2023, Panic! at the Disco officially ended. Despite the fact that by that point it was just an assortment of studio musicians, production by Jake Sinclair, and Brendon Urie’s high notes, the band coming to its end still had an impact on fans and casual listeners.

A band key to so many people’s adolescence ceasing to exist caused fans to retreat back to Panic! at the Disco’s earlier, more admired work. While the band’s first two albums A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out (2005) and Pretty. Odd. (2008) received large amounts of praise and attention, likely due to the involvement of guitarist and main songwriter Ryan Ross, their fourth album Too Weird to live, Too Rare to Die! (2013) was still appreciated as much as the others. In many ways it felt like the last time that Panic! at the Disco was an actual band with a coherent vision, instead of just a collection of people using an established name to make simplified music.

The album feeds into the ideas of apocalyptic excess

As an album, Too Weird to live, Too Rare to Die! is deeply connected to Las Vegas. While the Nevada city has always had some influence on the band’s music, it never felt as overt as it did on Too Weird to live, Too Rare to Die! From the album cover where Brendon Urie smokes a cigarette, a cloud of multi coloured smoke rising from it, against a backdrop of the Nevada desert, it is clear that this is a project deeply grounded in the city’s culture. Many of the songs feel as though they were designed to be played at a Vegas residency, or along the city’s bustling strip. The album even draws inspiration for its name from the Hunter S. Thompson novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Unsurprisingly, the album feeds into the ideas of apocalyptic excess that run throughout Thompson’s novel, as the lyrics deal with sex, partying, smoking and all the accompanying emotions.

In many ways it feels like a last push to define themselves as an actual band

However, the change of direction is not only seen in the aesthetics of the album, but the composition at its very core. While the band had never appeared strongly rooted in one genre, their last three albums jumped from pop punk, to Beatles pastiche, to pop rock on Too Weird to live, Too Rare to Die. Here the heavy use of electronics, something that was previously more of an undercurrent, is pushed to the front of the instrumentation. The opening track ‘This is Gospel’ begins with an automated beat that clearly resembles a heartbeat, with reverberating vocals before transitioning into a crowded mix of guitar riffs, percussion, synths, and vocals. It feels like a track that would fit more easily into old Panic! at the Disco, and is almost out of place on this album as this is somewhere the band never really returns to on this project. Tracks like ‘Girl That You Love’ and ‘Casual Affair’ are overwhelmed by the band’s new focus. The former sounds like a song that would be played in the background of a 1980’s action movie, with its relatively simple production and automated instrumentation. The latter warps the drums from Led Zeppelin’s ‘D’yer Mak’er’. There are some tracks, such as ‘Nicotine’ and ‘The End of All Things’ that try to return to the sound of ‘This Is Gospel’, but for the most part the sound is rooted in electronic synth music.

Overall, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! holds an interesting place in the discography of Panic! at the Disco. Nearing a decade into their career, the band had shifted away from the pop-punk/rock sound that defined them, into the electronic, sample-heavy sound that would go on to define their later albums – often with diminishing results. In many ways it feels like a last push to define themselves as an actual band, even if it was a short-lived fantasy. Soon after the album’s release, bassist Dallon Weekes was demoted to a touring musician, and drummer Spencer Smith left the band entirely. Still, it is hard to not appreciate the album and what it strives for with its brash synths and automated backing vocals. Sure, they aren’t screeching lyrics like “Haven’t you heard that I’m the new cancer? / I’ve never looked better and you can’t stand it” from their debut, but it almost feels illogical that a band would remain permanently stuck in their teenage years, rather than maturing into the shimmering Vegas lights.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.