Monday, June 02, 2008

"When the Day Met The Night" /
Panic at the Disco

The band formerly known as Panic! at the Disco may have dropped the exclamation point from their name, but they couldn't resist thrusting a period into the title of their new album, Pretty. Odd. Orthographic eccentricities aside, PATD's been growing on me lately (they get played a lot at my home, though not necessarily by me). Their first album, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, was very much in the neurotic-indie mold, with a look-at-me cleverness that got a little wearing. But that was three years ago, and these guys are much older and wiser now. They can even drink legally now, in all 50 states. (Well, everyone except drummer Spencer Smith.)

Now that success has freed the boys to follow their muse, that muse turns out -- surprise! -- to have a mile-wide streak of retro British Mod charm. I finally figured out why Brendon Urie's voice always sounded so familiar to me -- it's got that same breathy choirboy sweetness as Colin Blunstone of the Zombies. This comes off especially strongly on "When the Day Met The Night," an archaic bit of psychedelic-folk trumpery dolled up with a horn section and strings a la Revolver or Odessey and Oracle (it even ends with a big orchestral crash like "A Day in the Life"). It would be irritating if they hadn't pulled it off -- but they do pull it off.

"When The Day" is a faux-naive nature fable about the golden day when the moon and the sun fell in love with each other. (Yeah, I know it's Donovan-style twee.) She's drinking tea in the garden, even. But in the second verse, the sun and the moon act just like awkward teenagers: "When the moon found the sun / He looked like he was barely hanging on / But her eyes saved his life / In the middle of summer." (That refrain, 'in the middle of summer," has a Beach-Boysish lushness, with rafts of back-up vocals.)

Then their romantic negotiations turn comical: "So he said, 'Would it be alright / If we just sat and talked for a little while / If in exchange for your time / I give you this smile?'" Her answer is loaded with 21st century angst: "So she said, 'That's okay / As long as you can make a promise / Not to break my little heart / Or leave me all alone / In the summer.'" That perky skipping melody, the robust horns, can't completely disguise the neurotic edge songwriter Ryan Ross has to throw in. (This is the same guy whose earlier songs had titles like "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage.")

I smell something autobiographical in that last verse: "Well he was just hanging around / Then he fell in love / He didn't know how / But he couldn't get out." There's the trademark panic part of Panic at the Disco. (They are from Las Vegas, after all.) Donovan would never have let the moon and the sun get freaked out by their budding romance. And as the ending builds to a layered frenzy of strings and sitar-like guitars, that summery refrain dissolves into a psychedelic blur. (Fading to bird calls, of course -- these guys have listened to the white album, they know the drill.)

But the melody is perky, and those horns are straight out of "Penny Lane" or "Got To Get You Into My Life" -- and I can't stop singing this quirky little confection. I love seeing Panic at the Disco going all Mod on us, even if it is a schitzy modern Modness.

When the Day Met The Night sample


Uncle E said...

You know, I never really had a desire to listen to Panic! At The Disco, but everything I've recently read (including your blog) is slowly convincing me I should give 'em a chance. Pretty.Odd I hear is a great leap forward by these guys.

Holly A Hughes said...

Lemme know what you think after you've listened to more. I think you will like. After all, if I could give in and admit to my 13-year-old daughter that her idols are worthwhile, they must really be good.

Which still doesn't mean I need to know all their birthdays and their pets' names and their favorite foods...