I’m always surprised when I hear about bands that I liked in high school still being relevant in the music world. I know most of those bands are still out there making music. Just because I don’t listen to their music or follow them anymore doesn’t mean they cease to exist. What really surprises me though is when those bands reach a level of success greater than the level I knew them at. For instance, take Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Sure, I guess I can argue that the band is new, but Andrew McMahon is no stranger to music. He was the front man for indie punk band Something Corporate and then for Jack’s Mannequin. He even sang about his SoCo life (“been around the world in a punk rock band”) in the Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness hit “Cecilia and the Satellite”. Despite ventures with two different bands who were well-known in their respective scenes, he never bridged the mainstream gap until Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Now another band from my high school years has my attention.
I first heard about this band, by the name of Panic! at the Disco when I was a junior in high school. I got their debut album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, which was released in September 2005, around the time I got my driver’s license. Their debut was the soundtrack to my early driving days where I gained and maintained the independence a driver’s license offers. It played as I drove to pick up friends, grab some Burger King, or take drives on a long strip of road in a nearby town known as The Ave.The first song of theirs that caught my attention was “Time to Dance”. I downloaded a demo version of the song that was different from the album version and received some attention from friends who recognized the distinction. I listened to both versions anyway and loved the rest of the songs too.
Panic! at the Disco was founded in 2004 by childhood friends, Ryan Ross and Spencer Smith, while they were still in high school in a suburb of Las Vegas, Nevada. They recruited friend, Brent Wilson to join and Wilson encouraged his classmate, Brendon Urie to join the band as well. Initially the group started out as a blink-182 cover band, but then they recorded three original songs. They decided to send Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz a link to their Purevolume account just for the hell of it, but the tables turned in their favor. Wentz liked what he heard. He met the band and asked them to sign with his very own Decaydence Records (now known as DCD2), an imprint of Fueled By Ramen, which Fall Out Boy was signed with. They signed with Wentz before even playing a live show, which came a few month before their first album was released.
Their debut album had a slow rise to the top, but in a way Panic! at the Disco needed that. They needed to learn how to be a band. They all recently graduated high school (aside from Ross who dropped out of college to focus on music) and were still young kids. In March of 2006, the band announced a headlining tour and by August of that year the album was certified platinum and their single “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” won Video of the Year at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. Pretty amazing for a bunch of teenagers right? However the Panic! at the Disco who had that crazy rise to fame isn’t the same Panic! at the Disco that exists today.
Over the past 11 years the band has had plenty of turnover. Lead vocalist, Brendon Urie is the only founding member still in the band. There’s various reasons for that though. Creative differences was one of the reasons. I totally understand this because the band’s sound has changed drastically from its debut album.
Their first record has an electronic dance punk sound. Their second record Pretty Odd, released on March 21, 2008, sounds like something you’d hear from the Beatles. It was a drastic change in sound. It was one that I, as a huge fan of their first album, wasn’t happy about. I remember looking forward to their sophomore album, but while listening to it for the first time I was confused as to who I was actually listening to because it didn’t sound like them at all. It resulted in my disinterest in the band from then on.
The band released 3 more albums since Pretty. Odd.: Vices & Virtues (2011), Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! (2013), and most recently Death of a Bachelor, which came out in January of 2016. Now Panic! at the Disco’s sound falls into the pop rock genre. I have to admit as a fan of early Panic! at the Disco, their most recent album sounds more like their debut than the second album did. The only consistent thing throughout their five albums is Urie’s signature vocals.
Now back to the first paragraph of this blog when I was saying how it surprises me when bands I used to listen to in high school reach a level of success greater than the one I knew them at. Yesterday I was looking at upcoming concerts on the Bandsintown app, my go-to app for upcoming concerts and music events. I was looking into Saint Motel’s future shows as an idea for a Christmas present for my mom who happens to be a Saint Motel fan. I saw they were playing a few shows next year nearby, but the shows were in arenas. For a band like Saint Motel, that’s not the norm. I figured they must be opening for someone so I did some research to see who they were opening for. Turns out they’re opening for Panic! at the Disco on their Death of a Bachelor Tour. I couldn’t believe it. Only a few of the shows are sold out (who knows if they’re true sell outs or not) as of right now, but it still floored me that this band is currently able to play arena sized venues especially since I haven’t heard of Panic! at the Disco making much noise since “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”. Actually, the last time Brendon Urie came into my life was over the past year at Coachella 2016 when he joined Halsey on stage as part of her set. Panic! at the Disco must be doing something right though, even if I haven’t noticed it.
If you’re interested in listening to this band, here are some of my favorite songs and a few other good ones by the band who got their name from The Smiths’ song “Panic”:
- Time to Dance
- The Only Difference Between Martydom and Suicide is Press Coverage
- I Write Sins Not Tragedies
- Lying is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off
- But It’s Better If You Do
- Nine in the Afternoon