By Reed Fischer
By Anna Gulbrandsen
By Jeff Gage
By Stacy Schwartz
By Natalie Gallagher
By Erik Thompson
By Jeff Gage
By Loren Green
The teenage gaze is a vicious thing. Youthful insecurity compels kids to judge each and every specimen they come in contact with. For the 18- and 19-year-olds of Panic! At the Disco, it's doubly rough because they have the press on their case in addition to their peers. The Las Vegas quartet's big break resembled a shotgun wedding: Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz hurriedly signed them as the first act to his Decaydance label, literally changing their lives overnight.
Where burnouts would tell the leering world to fuck off, artsy kids would write heart-wrenching screeds, and the in-crowd would attempt to assimilate. Panic! does a bit of all three with staggering conviction and wit on their debut, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out. It's a spine-seizing, anxiety-addled mix of bubbly punk, spry harmonies, pulsating new wave, and hard dance-pop that embraces the spotlight rather than running from it. "Swear to shake it up if you swear to listen/Oh we're still so young but desperate for attention," sings Brendon Urie on the pensively titled "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage." Instead of worrying about indie cred, they wail, "Let's get these teen hearts beating faster and faster!" Throughout, guitars stab, synths flutter, and guitarist/lyricist Ryan Ross's manic ADD affirmations tumble over each other. The noise is crisp and weird; they're naive and loving it.
Panic! changes into Vaudevillian prom attire for the second half of the album, where accordions and flamenco-ish guitars dress up their bizarre little stories. Urie tosses off lines with the bravado of a beleaguered circus ringleader. The highs and lows of the music's moods are dizzying but engrossing, though not to everyone. "If this scene were a parish you'd all be condemned," proclaims Urie on the sermonlike "I Constantly Thank God for Esteban." Aping the jaunty melodies of "Date Rape" by Sublime, "There's a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven't Thought of It Yet" craves attention to the point where it makes a car crash of itself. To hell with insecurities. With a sloppy yet knowing wink, Urie admirably admits, "It just doesn't feel like a night out with no one sizing you up."
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