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Disco doesn't Panic on new CD
Source: canoe.ca
Posted on: May 20, 2008 03:22 MST
Filed under: Rock

Panic at the Disco

Some of them aren't even old enough to lay a bet down in their hometown Vegas casinos, but when you're a multi-platinum fixture on MTV, people are willing to bend a few rules.

"Let's say, they've been known to make exceptions," jokes Panic at the Disco's most junior member, drummer Spencer Smith, name-checking some of his favourite Sin City spots down the line from upstate New York.

Founded by Smith, 20, guitarist-lyricist Ryan Ross, ex-bassist Brent Wilson and vocalist Brendon Urie when they were still high school students in Summerlin, Nev., the quartet caught their big break when Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz got wind of them through their PureVolume site.

One of the first bands signed to his Decaydance label, Panic at the Disco released their debut - "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out" - in the fall of 2005, parlaying popularity on social networking sites like MySpace into an appearance on MTV's Total Request Live in early 2006.

Their hip-shaking cabaret act the secret ingredient in that album's smash hit - "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" - the teens found themselves on the cover of Rolling Stone and then a headlining their own amphitheatre tour a few months later.

"There weren't any expectations with that first album because we didn't have any big fan base," Smith says. "The goal was just to write the best songs we could."


Taking their cues from rock's heavyweights, "the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who; bands who had no agenda and wrote whatever they wanted," he says, Panic at the Disco cloaked themselves in eyeliner and lathered their songs in groovy, falsetto voiced theatrics, attracting thousands of devoted twentysomethings along the way.

"All these things that we never thought would happen, did," Smith says thoughtfully. "And we were as happy as ever with the way those songs turned out."

In the midst of writing for their new record - "Pretty.Odd." - with new bassist Jon Walker in tow, the foursome found themselves seduced by the brassy sounds of the late '60s and early '70s.

"When we sat down to write the record, it took us a little while to all be on the same page," he says. "But we did find something about the music from that time period that seemed more interesting and creative than a lot of the stuff we were hearing on current modern radio."

After a few false starts in the studio, Smith says that rather than second-guess those musical urges, they just went with the flow.

"Instead of listening to specific songs and saying, 'We want to sound like this,' it was more adopting how those artists - people like Elton John, the Beatles - had no fear and were willing to try new things."

Using a full-orchestra was something they wished they could have done more of on the first album. "Unfortunately, though, we weren't in the position to have that be a possibility right out of the gate," he says.

But when they worked up a smattering of demos that used keys to mimic the string and horn sections they wanted to add to their sophomoric musical extravaganza, producer Rob Mathes said: "No problem."

"He was the perfect person for us to work with," Smith says. "He loves everything from Beethoven and Bach to Led Zeppelin."

Recorded at the Palms Hotel a few blocks from the famous Las Vegas strip, "Pretty.Odd." begins with riffing violins that back Urie's sprightly declaration: "We're still the same band…/You don't have to worry, you don't."

The rest of the album rocks suavely, casting infectious arpeggios against Ross's quick-tongued wit. A couple of retro numbers - including "The Piano Knows Something I Don't," on which Urie vows "I won't cut my beard and I won't change my hair" - offer hints that their breezy nod to psychedelic '60s Brit rock may be permanent.

"It was something we were enthusiastic about and excited with," Smith says. "And it is a sound that will probably stay with the band on the next album."

A few days before taking the stage in Toronto for a sold-out show at the Sound Academy, it is apparent their clearheaded approach to making music isn't dampened by the ongoing rush of fame.

"It's pretty easy to not let it all go to your head," Smith says. "There are always those bands like the Beatles that we're never going to be as good as. If you think about their career, it's like, 'Holy shit. We're never going to be that good.' So that keeps us normal.

"I just hope the only thing that people remember us by isn't the record we wrote when we were 17, living in our parents' house."

"Pretty.Odd." is in stores now.

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