You might feel like you’ve probably read just about everything there is to read about Panic at the Disco’s Pretty. Odd. album. You know all about the ill-fated cabin sessions that begat the sorta-concept album that they ultimately decided to scrap for reasons not altogether clear to anyone. You’ve fretted about the subtraction of the exclamation point from their name and the addition of the two periods to the album title. And you’ve waded through countless stories about the Web site shenanigans they dreamed up to promote that album .
But here’s something you probably haven’t heard: There was a definite point in the recording of Pretty. Odd. when it seemed possible that the album might never get made at all. Seriously.
“There was a week where we were all taking a break from writing, and Ryan was just off writing lyrics somewhere, and we all started talking on the phone about maybe going in a different direction or starting fresh,” bassist Jon Walker said. “Because we were writing the album in a kind of story theme, and it was constraining us from doing anything. … The first song we wrote after that was ‘Nine in the Afternoon,’ and instantly we were like, ‘All right, we were having more fun doing this.’ It was kind of a weight off our shoulders, realizing we could start all over after spending six months up in a cabin.”
“It was exciting, and a relief, but it was also a little frightening,” drummer Spencer Smith added. “Because we had originally started in February, and all of a sudden, we’re in August, and we’re back to just four or five songs. But it was a start.”
And from that point, Panic buckled down, ripping through eight new songs in a little more than six weeks, then writing a couple more while ensconced in Las Vegas’ Studio at the Palms Hotel and Casino. By the end of the year, they were well on their way to wrapping production on Odd., flying to London’s famed Abbey Road Studios to add flourishes of horns and strings, which, in a way, is incredibly fitting.
Because while the album is a whole lot of things — more “organic,” less literal and hypersensitive to the message-board haters, much mellower than the hectic A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out — it’s also probably the most Beatles-esque album to come down the pipe in a decade, recalling mid- to late-period Fab Four tunes (“Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Lovely Rita,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!,” and “Rocky Raccoon” are just a few that spring to mind ) in both songwriting and scope. The similarity was both intentional and completely coincidental, according to the guys in Panic.
“We all like all of that, from Rubber Soul to The White Album and all of that, but even before, we were into that theatrical element of things. We didn’t want to do a Sgt. Pepper’s thing. It was like before we were writing these songs, we were writing things that were almost entirely orchestrated,” guitarist Ryan Ross sighed. “And it kind of carried over into this stuff. And I do think that half this record does sort of have that kind of ‘fantastical instrumentation’ thing, but we were just trying to fit the mood of each song. And in some cases, we just thought, ‘We’ve got to have this.’ ”
“We used to get compared to Fall Out Boy, and I don’t think that’s accurate at all, and I would say the Beatles comparison is more accurate,” Walker added. “But, like Ryan said, we never had the intention of doing that. And after hearing the album, I can understand why people think that, but I don’t hear it all that much. I mean, like ‘Nine in the Afternoon’ has a trumpet part in it, but it’s just a happy trumpet line.”
Regardless, those Beatles comparisons are already starting to make their way around the Internet, which means that even if they don’t hear it, Panic should be preparing themselves for a cavalcade of Beatles-related questions. Then again, for them, this isn’t exactly something new. Ever since they first exploded on the scene, they’ve dealt with detractors almost exclusively, so they always welcome a good battle, even if it is with their own fans, who are already grumbling about their beloved band “changing” too much.
“I mean, [this record] is very different from the first record,” frontman Brendon Urie said. “We’re still the same guys in the band, it’s just that it’s been three-something years since we’ve written material for an album, so … I think it’s just the natural change that takes place from the time you turn 17 to the time you turn 20.”
“We still like pop music, and we still like writing melody, and I think we just got better at that; I don’t think we abandoned that in any way,” Ross chimed in. “We still try to write the smartest lyrics possible, just in a different way, and the best melodies possible, just in a different way. And I hope people can hear that.”