When Panic! at the Disco arrived on the scene in 2005, a blur of carnival imagery and emo-leaning pop with florid titles, few would have anticipated the Las Vegas band would bloom into one of rock's most eclectic young acts.
However, the band's fourth album, "Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die" (Decaydance/Fueled by Ramen), solidifies that standing, as Brendon Urie and friends take elements of '80s synth-pop, '90s indie-rock and emo from the Aughts to build a sound that is both comfortably familiar and uniquely theirs.
The first single, "This Is Gospel," offers the blueprint for the album, with its synth-pop, AutoTuned verses and its arena-ready, sing-along rock chorus. "Miss Jackson" improves on it, with a stomping beat that calls to mind the band's mentors, Fall Out Boy, while still managing to slip in an '80s reference to Janet Jackson's "Nasty."
It's when Panic! follows their influences further afield, though, that "Too Weird" gets more interesting. They revisit the melody-driven simplicity of early Depeche Mode -- right down to Urie's David Gahan-esque brooding croon on "Far Too Young to Die" and his breathier take that evokes Martin Gore on "Collar Full" -- to create some of the album's catchiest moments. On "Girls Girls Boys," they seem to update "Rio"-era Duran Duran, including a John Taylor-like bass line and some throwback synths, while "Nicotine" seems to imagine what Linkin Park would sound like at, well, the disco. And that, like the rest of "Too Weird," is no small feat.
PANIC! AT THE DISCO
"Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die"
THE GRADE A-
BOTTOM LINE Combining '80s pop and new millennium rock