I've gotta say, as far as crappy radio emo goes, I was kinda okay with Panic At The Disco a couple years back. 'Twasn't really anything special, the same kind of shouty stuff with goofy overlong titles like "Hey, What Kind Of Crappy Long Title Is This And What Does It Have To Do With The Fucking Song Anyway" that lotsa bands were doing (it was the "Big Brother And The Holding Company" of 2005!). But I got the feeling that Panic -- I fucking refuse to call them "PATD," thanks, there's something about acronyming them that bugs me shitless -- were somehow smarter than their peers (like label bosses Fall Out Boy, who seem like the have the shared combined intelligence of a stale cheese sandwich) and might have something better than just Emo Band O' The Moment in their future.
Sometime between then and now somebody slipped the kids in Panic a couple copies of "Sgt. Pepper." Which happens to about 90% of White College-Age Kids in America, nothing special. But once in a while, really overambitious smart people hear "Pepper" for the 1st time and go "oh, shit, that's awesome, I CAN DO THAT!" And then they try, which is always kind of awesome, and usually produces an overambitious, overlong failure of an album just like Panic's latest, "Pretty Odd" (see also: Terrence Trent D'Arby's batshit crazy "Neither Fish Nor Flesh," or Prince's "Around The World In A Day" for a couple other notable examples.)
I cannot imagine how the Emo Masses are gonna view "Pretty Odd." It's almost totally devoid of the usual emo touchstones -- the vocals are MOSTLY kind of pretty (though the lead singer still kinda yelps like an angry, aenemic Ben Folds) instead of screamy, and there's harmonies and weird string sections and odd sounds and such like you'd expect on a "Pepper" rip instead of One Really Loud Guitar and One Badly Played Bass like on every other rock record last year. It bears really no real resemblance to the usual stuff on the radio. Part of me hopes they all embrace it and it brings on a New! Exciting! Era! of crappy Sgt. Pepper ripoffs for me to be amused by, but I'm half-sure its gonna be laughed outta the park.
That said: its really pretty fucking great. I'm sure you all heard "Nine In The Afternoon" on SNL this last weekend, accompanied by a string section and featuring a Cor Anglais solo (just like "Penny Lane," get it?) and its a really tuneful, catchy sonofabitch of a single, besides being far too busy and chockful of production details, which I love. Elsewhere on the album, "She's A Handsome Woman" has a lovely melody and some nicely jagged guitar playing, "Northern Downpour" is a lovely ballad with some amazing lyrics and great singing, and "The Piano Knows Something I Dont' Know" almost sounds like it could have come off the Beach Boys' "Smile," with the mellotron filligrees and bizarre chord structure and melody and strings and stylistic shifts.
I'm just not sure if its enough Beatles to hook the Beatles fans, or enough emo to hook the emo fans, you know? *I* like it, but the "30-something-music-geek-with-a-really-open-mind" crowd isn't big enough to make a huge hit. How about you all buy it and give it a try, too, maybe we could get something happening here. I'd love to hear Fall Out Boy's ensuing ripoff "Satanic Majesties Request."