Four albums into their career, the only constant for Vegas natives Panic! At the Disco seems to be reinvention. This axiom certainly applies to their lineup. Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! arrives in the shadow of drummer Spencer Smith’s ongoing battle with addiction and absence from the band, leaving frontman Brendon Urie (temporarily) as the sole original member.
More important, the penchant for metamorphosis definitely applies to Panic’s sound. Produced by Butch Walker, Too Weird is inspired by Urie’s rediscovery of Vegas and its nightlife. The album tones down the genre-splicing of 2011’s Vices & Virtues in favor of a narrower emphasis on ultra-modern pop filled with keyboards and dance beats. Of course, since it’s Panic, it’s not like it’s vapid dancefloor fodder: There’s still plenty of variation within this electro-rock focus—from gothic-leaning techno (“Casual Affair”) and Faint-esque robot jamming (“Girl That You Love”) to glossy new wave (“Collar Full”), playful synth-pop (“The Vegas Lights”) and even hip-hop (“Miss Jackson”)—and enough oddball detours (highlighted by the seedy Russian disco vibe of “Nicotine”) to keep listeners on their toes.
As a vocalist, Urie sounds more confident than ever, something that’s also evident in his lyrics, which tackle heady topics like eternal love (“The End of All Things”), bisexuality (“Girls/Girls/Boys”) and Smith’s struggles (“This Is Gospel”). Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! strikes the perfect balance between meaningful and entertaining, making it Panic’s best record yet.