‘Pretty. Odd.’ is pretty good

Jeff Yerger

Instead of writing my philosophy paper last week, I decided to check out the iTunes music store and see what new music they had for me.

Browsing around, I noticed that the new Panic at the Disco album “Pretty. Odd.” came out … not exactly what I was looking for.

I mean is that really what the world needs: more emo clogging up the airwaves?

But as I stared at the album cover, which looked more like an antique version of The Zombies’ “Odyssey and Oracle,” curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to check out the 30 second samples.

Of course, you can’t really tell how good an album is from those clips, so I downloaded the single “Nine In The Afternoon” just for the heck of it. The cheerful little tune got me double-checking the computer screen for the name of the band.

Was this really Panic at the Disco I was hearing?

There weren’t any overly loud guitars chugging aimlessly away, nor were there any drawn out lyrics; just brass horns and simple melodies making the song sound like the grandson of “Penny Lane.”

As it turns out, the whole album is nothing like the Panic at the Disco of old.

It has ditched the emo run-on song names like “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage” for a more formal, mature approach to songwriting.

It even removed the exclamation point from its name, signifying that it has calmed down a bit since its debut “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out.”

What I love most about this album is the sheer experimentation coming from Panic because most bands are too afraid to venture out into the unknown and do something different.

These guys have proved that they can bring something new to the table, and, wearing its influences on its sleeve, Panic at the Disco has indeed made something totally unexpected.

“Unexpected” is the word that mostly comes to mind when listening to “Pretty. Odd.” because it isn’t exactly ground-breaking, but it does sound fresh in this day and age.

Somebody must’ve lent these guys the “Sgt. Peppers” album while they were recording this one because the influence is so obvious.

In the first song, “We’re So Starving,” singer Brendon Urie exclaims “Oh, how it’s been so long / We’re so sorry we’ve been gone / We were busy writing songs for you,” a la the opening to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

While this album isn’t exactly plagiarism, Panic does pay homage to the sound of the ’60s, channeling The Beatles, the Kinks and The Beach Boys in the process.

Panic at the Disco have found a new talent – harmonizing – and songs such as “She’s A Handsome Woman” and “Do You Know What I’m Seeing?” put its vocals on display.

No longer does it rely on excessively distorted, guitar-driven choruses.

Instead, it experiments with a wide range of instruments to create sounds that would make the Byrds jealous.

Panic even delves into a bit of psychedelic oddities with songs like “When The Day Met The Night” and “The Piano Knows Something I Don’t Know,” which contain swirling string sessions (which were recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios … still don’t see The Beatles influence?).

At points it strays back to its emo roots, but we can forgive Panic for that – nobody’s perfect.

The highlight of the album, however, is the gorgeous harmony-filled ballad “Northern Downpour”: the emo song The Beatles never wrote.

It is Panic at the top of its game, and it brings the house down on what overall is a fantastic album.

In the song, “That Green Gentleman [Things Have Changed],” Urie sings, “Things have changed for me, and that’s okay / I feel the same.”

Sure, Panic at the Disco may feel the same, but “Pretty. Odd.” is proof that change is indeed good.

Though they may lose some fans and gain some new ones in the process, these emo kids have certainly grown up to produce a respectable record, likely to become a classic.