Released March 21, 2008
48 min, 46 sec
Panic at the Disco had all the makings of a one-hit wonder when they released their 2005 debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. Song titles ripped from novels, a distinct and telegraphed change in style right in the middle of the album, and the band’s distinctive exclamation mark in their name after “Panic” (strangely not present for Pretty. Odd.) practically screamed “we will not exist in two years.”
Sure enough, initial recording sessions for their follow-up completely fell apart by mid-2007, and the band had to scrap the entire album and start over. The end result is an album that has a lot of character, far, far removed from what made the band unique in 2005.
This is mostly attributed to guitarist and original vocalist Ryan Ross, who was pushed out of the vocalist spot by Brendon Urie upon his joining of the band in 2004. Ross chose to take the band in a different direction for their sophomore album, and that direction is, essentially, late-era Beatles. A wide variety of traditional, analog instruments, with very little of the electronic influences that defined the band’s biggest hits from Fever, drive Pretty. Odd., giving it a different sort of quirky nature that wasn’t entirely well-received by the band’s fanbase. Many were put off by the vast difference between Fever and Pretty. Odd.; critics, however, were tentatively positive about the new direction, generally noting it to be a bold move for the band, especially given how young and dedicated their fanbase had been.
Pretty. Odd. is, indeed, a bold move. The group walked away from what made them famous and did what they wanted to do, and though the album does fall flat on a few occasions (replacing Ross with Urie on vocals was a very good move, and Ross’s vocals on “Northern Downpour” and “Behind the Sea” exemplify this), it’s overall a strong effort that covers a wide variety of genres and musical styles.
However, the vast shift in musical style created a rift in the band between Ross and Urie. Ross wanted to continue the direction they’d begun with Pretty. Odd., while Urie instead felt that a return to more pop-influenced work, more in the vein of Fever, was what the band needed. The disagreements, unusually for a rock band of such sudden popularity, never escalated into real conflict or public shit-throwing – instead, Ross, and bassist Jon Walker, calmly announced their departure on the band’s official website, formed a new band, and that was the end of it. Little was made from any member of the band about the split, and both Panic! (now with the exclamation point back in the name) and Ross’s new band The Young Veins continued work on their respective albums.
As bold as Pretty. Odd. was, it really did represent an endpoint. The album’s success kept Panic from being the one-album wonder that was expected of them, but the band’s popularity had severely waned following the split, with 2011’s Vices & Virtues selling a fraction of what Pretty. Odd. did. Part of this, of course, can be attributed to declining album sales in the modern music era, but it also indicated a drop in popularity. No longer was Panic! a powerful mainstream force – instead, they now stood as just another quirky rock band in the lower tier of American music.