Let’s travel back nine years ago: March 25, 2008. The day Panic! at the Disco released Pretty. Odd., their most eccentric album ever. Also the last Panic! album to be recorded with 4 members, and the only one where Ryan Ross sings.
Rolling Stone compared duo Ross and Brendon Urie to the Beatles, saying that “Ryan Ross…takes on the role of Lennon to frontman Brendon Urie’s McCartney.” That description is spot on, and perfectly encapsulates the album’s sound. Pretty. Odd. is an amazing modern take on 1960s psychedelic rock, with a main influence of experimental-era Beatles. (There’s also the known fact that Panic! was high as hell during writing.) 2008 Panic! even looked like 1960s moptops! Pretty. Odd. is the band’s most creative and relaxed album, packing in new and different sounds. Alternative Addiction said that “this sounds like it was recorded in the 60’s with today’s production value,” while Alternative Press compared Pretty. Odd. to the Beatles’ White Album.
1. We’re So Starving
This song was apparently leaked on MySpace prior to the album’s release, misguiding fans about the sound direction of Pretty. Odd. Fun fact: the line, “You don’t have to worry/Because we’re still the same,” is meant to assure fans that even though an original member was replaced (bassist Brent Wilson with Jon Walker), the change isn’t a big deal.
2. Nine In the Afternoon
So while working on Pretty. Odd., the band wrote out of a cabin in Mount Charleston, NV, which they’d rented post-tour to recharge and create album #2. The opening line is a reference to that cabin (“Back to the street where we began”). Interestingly, the band scrapped almost everything from take 1 of the album and started over. “Nine in the Afternoon” was one of few tracks to re-make the cut (Wikipedia). As for the song title, then drummer Spencer Smith came up with it during while high.
3. She’s a Handsome Woman
With Pretty. Odd., it sometimes is hard to define a song’s meaning. This song sounds like it’s about an affair, as evidenced by the first verse; the second verse tells us it’s a secret affair, but the singer no longer wants to be a skeleton in the woman’s closet (“I wasn’t born to be a skeleton”). That lyric is one of two direct quotes from Arthur Rimbaud’s poem The Foolish Virgin.
4. Do You Know What I’m Seeing?
On a hot day in Ross’ backyard, the second song was written. And in an un-Panic!-like fashion, there isn’t some hidden deeper meaning to this song. It’s literally just a song about the weather, according to Ross. The below lyrics are an “Alice in Wonderland” reference. I’m not surprised that there’s an “Alice” reference on an album like this.
5. That Green Gentleman (Things Have Changed)
Yes, the song refers to weed. Again, who’s surprised?! This song is supposedly about the band’s friendship; but looking at the lyrics, it’s more about how the singer slept around, this one girl he lost out on, and reflection on how these experiences changed him. The opening line also includes the album title plug (“Things are shaping up to be pretty odd”). The music video, while totally unrelated to the song, is very funny, Beatles-esque, and oh my lord those bikes!! How?!
6. I Have Friends In Holy Spaces
“I Have Friends” is merely a transitional piece, but they still made such an effort to perfect even this short bit. It’s recorded to sound like a 1940s-1950s radio performance, and is so well-done that if you didn’t know better, you would think that it’s an actual song from that time period. They nailed it down to the grainy sound quality and crackling audio.
7. Northern Downpour
And here’s the “love song to the girlfriends” track. James Montgomery from MTV described the track as sounding “like an Abbey Road outtake.” It’s the only completely acoustic song on the album, and a well-needed breather smartly placed mid-album. Ross told VH1 that “we want[ed] it to be all about the lyric and the melody,” and I feel that it was a good choice for this song.
8. When the Day Met the Night
Talk about a creative way to sing a love story. It’s a love song about two opposites (like the moon and sun) falling in love, told in some seriously descriptive and beautiful metaphors. As for sound, SPIN said that this track “volleys a sunshine pop sing-along that’s as blindingly bright as most screamo/metalcore bands are dark.” It’s also a more Sergeant Pepper’s sounding track.
9. Pas De Chavel
The song title is actually the name of a ballet step, translating into “horse’s step.” If you listen to the song’s opening, the tempo matches that of horses running. The singer is talking about how the people he meets often don’t realize how impactful he is on their lives. It’s certainly an interesting concept.
10. The Piano Knows Something I Don’t Know
This country-infused song is…interesting, both lyrically and sound-wise. Discovering the meaning turned up quite a few ideas. In the first verse he sings about refusing to change, then the chorus is singing about a girl just out of his reach. It sounds like this song covers a few of his worries, which “the piano knows something I don’t know:” meaning maybe the piano on which he churns his emotions into songs knows the solution.
11. Behind the Sea
This song is gorgeous. There’s a lot of aquatic references, and the song’s sound follows along with those references, making you feel like you’re floating along in the sea. It’s soothing. Ross’ vocals on this track were an excellent choice, since his singing voice is softer than Urie’s brassier tones.
12. Folkin’ Around
A random country song, why not? This song is about a summer romance, a girl who post-breakup changed her behaviors. Urie writes this song so he’ll never forget what she was like while they were together. The third verse (below) is him accepting that if his love isn’t enough for her, he won’t waste time chasing her: she can either realize he’s enough for her, or keep up her new ways.
13. She Had the World
This song is about a girl who had “the world,” everything she could want, but she’s still not happy. He’s the one thing she can’t have, because “I’m out of my mind.” When they finally get together though, he just breaks her heart and leaves her changed: or as he thinks, “I’m sure I didn’t ruin her/Just made her more interesting.” Yeah, it’s kind of a heartless song disguised with soft and pretty music.
14. From a Mountain In the Middle of the Cabins
Told in an overly upbeat and contradictory tune, this song is about a broken relationship. The girl is unhappy that her partner is leaving yet again to sell drugs to make money for the bills, which he didn’t use to do. The relationship seems verbally abusive, where either she won’t leave him or throws back at him the hurtful words he says to her.
15. Mad As Rabbits
So this song tells the story of someone who gave up freedom to become the typical breadwinner husband. He’s lost all joy in this life, which has made his crazy. This song was one of my personal favorites. Not only does it have an awesome song, but it contains an iconic Panic! lyrics: “Reinvent love.”♫
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