Thursday, 30 July 2009

89: Panic At The Disco - Nine In The Afternoon

Panic! At The Disco were the mid-Noughties music critic's punch-bag of choice, an easy target for scorn in the music press. Derided as a poor man's Fall Out Boy, they were an easy target. Unnecessary punctuation in the band name? Check. Post-nu-metal tunes popular with pre-pubescent emo Americans? Check. Stupid song titles, such as 'Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off'? Check. Even stupider lyrics (e.g. "What a beautiful wedding, says a bridesmaid to a waiter")? Check. The critics hated them, but the fans loved them, as 2.2 million sales of debut album 'A Fever You Can't Sweat Out' can testify.

Then something rather unexpected happened. In January 2008, the band announced they were dropping the exclamation mark, and would henceforth be known simply as Panic At The Disco. As if that wasn't enough of a sign of growing maturity, early reviews of their second album talked about the obvious Beatles influences. The childishness of the first album appeared to have been forsaken.

When the first single from 'Pretty. Odd.' (ok, so they kept some of the bizarre punctuation) dropped in early February, there was genuine surprise. 'Nine In The Afternoon' sounded more ELO than My Chemical Romance. The change of direction didn't appear to have affected the band's commercial appeal though, with the album entering the charts at #2 in both the UK and the US.

I think that 'Nine In The Afternoon' is a real grower. For evidence of that, consider that I originally ranked it as my 25th favourite song of 2008, yet it was in my Top 10 of 2008 by the time I came to create this list. And in the month or so since I drew up my Top 100 of the decade, I've even toyed with the idea of placing it higher than this. I put it down to that glorious, rousing pop chorus, reminiscent of Blur at their very best, and the Kinks-ish piano. The lyrics are a vast improvement too, and I genuinely love the line about "losing the feeling of feeling unique". The proof is in the pudding, and in contrast to their earlier work, fans and critics alike loved the song and album. And that means that PATD's was the most justified career reinvention of the decade.

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