8 Years Gone: Panic! At the Disco "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out"


To be fair, it seemed pretty odd to me, too –

the sight of her in my parent’s house, standing there in fur boots and a husky winter coat, conversing with my mom in the kitchen, her brown hair wagging and hips shifting with energy, just the same after so many years.

My brother stumbled down the stairs, and after rifling through the pantry, he exchanged the strange civilities you have with someone when you’re hungover and not sure if you’re still high or just dreaming.

I stood there watching everything, unsure of how this was happening.

It’s hard to say why things come back into your life, especially the things that you don’t expect to ever see again. They have a way of it, though, and when they do, you tend to realize what you loved about them.

You trade stories about new lovers, drug dealers with French names and the darling children – all the things that had happened since that kiss she thought was so cool.

I hadn’t listened to Panic! At The Disco since then. I had shelved it with the old sweatshirts of my high school self. The album has aged better.

It’s smart, well-sequenced and unapologetic. For all its faults and artistic whims, it runs with with such wide-eyed ferocity that it’s hard not to see why they graced the cover of Rolling Stone and why they were infinitely better than their peers – like All American Rejects and The Academy Is… – that you long ago deleted with Windows Media Player and Rhapsody.

In hindsight, it’s amazing how forward-looking “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out” really is. Its vaudeville flares predate or fall in line with most of the concurrent indie bands that took the same turn. Its accordions and violins wouldn’t sound out of place on an Arcade Fire or Decemberists record. The pre-dubstep breakdown of “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage” was well before its time, and “Intermission” features an oddball piano breakdown that could easily segue songs on a Vampire Weekend LP.

Not to say that any of these bands owe Panic! anything. I’d be hard pressed to call the album influential. (Though, the band’s lead singer certainly had a fetish for older brothers Pete Wentz and Cedric Bixler-Zavala). However, the songs are surprisingly inventive. Sure, there may be swabs of production so thick you’re not sure if they could play them live, but it’s better if you don’t see that.

It’s better if you focus on the potential, how this group of high schoolers followed their own sarcastic, booksmart muse to the dancefloors of proms across America. Take a look at the chorus of “Nails For Breakfast, Tacks For Snacks.”

“Prescribe pills / to offset the shakes / to offset the pills you know you should take / it a day at a time.”

What other pop-emo bands were writing choruses that whip-tight? Which pop rock acts are doing that now?

Do you remember the songs you were writing at 17? We’re they slash-your-wrist singles or half-baked classic rock rehash? Come to think of it – did you write anything? Did you know enough to reference the books they namechecked in those “stupid” song titles?

It’s fine. I know you were just too nervous to say how you really felt. It’s nice to admit it after so many years. You’ll be surprised how much fun you can have.

Verdict: Interesting.

Pete Rizzo can be reached at prizzo@thoughtpollution.com. 

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