Being an old man, Panic! At The Disco’s first album pretty much passed me by without any trace; I knew the band existed, but always got them mixed up with My Chemical Romance for some reason, both bands written off as something approaching emogothpop by kids with too much money and romance for gloom (Yes, I know this is potentially unfair; sorry to those who are disappointed). But there was a mention on a website or a magazine or something prior to the band’s second album that essentially said “They’ve clearly been listening to a lot of Beatles and trying to recreate Sgt. Pepper’s,” which is the kind of thing that almost guarantees that I’ll check something out from morbid curiosity if nothing else. This song – “Nine In The Afternoon” – was the first single (and second track) on that second album, Pretty. Odd., and I remember hearing it and thinking “Oh, they’re not trying to be the Beatles, they’re trying to be Jellyfish.”
That sounds like a diss, but it shouldn’t; I love Jellyfish and their own retro sound, but there’s nothing in “Nine In The Afternoon” that really approaches either the expansive nature of, or the exploration at the heart of, their music; it’s all about nostalgia and an attempt to return to times past. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – A lot of my favorite bands, Jellyfish included, were very much concerned with the same thing – but it requires some level of songwriting beyond passable, and a dedication to production and aural fidelity, to make things sound like more than just pastiche. And this song… doesn’t really do that. This is “psychedelia” by numbers, with a song that’s not strong enough to really carry its weight as anything more. It’s enjoyable and relatively singalong, and yes, they’ve stolen a horn arrangement that feels like it should’ve come from Pepper’s, but it feels like ELO or something, an “almost-but-not-quite” running through the entire thing like a stick of rock.
Almost the entire album is like this, sadly; some kind of quasi-Rutles parody that’s agreeable but not memorable. There’s one song that I really did like off the album, although it’s barely a full song at all; the opener, “We’re So Starving” doesn’t try to sound like someone’s attempt to recreate 1967, is playful and self-aware, and altogether a lot of fun. If the entire album had sounded like that, everything would have been better.