Reflecting On: Panic! at the Disco – A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out

panic-at-the-disco-2005

During 2015, we’re going to be looking back on some of the best albums that were released 10 years ago and discussing their legacy. Feel free to share your thoughts and memories in the replies. Enjoy!

In the fall of 2005, Panic! at the Disco came out of nowhere. Just saying it doesn’t carry the full weight of that sentence. No one had heard of this band – no one had seen this band. Their debut, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, appeared on the Fueled by Ramen/Decaydance label, the home of Fall Out Boy, Paramore, The Academy Is… and Gym Class Heroes. It was basically a printed ticket to modest fame.

You can but A Fever You Can't Sweat Out on iTunes.

You can but A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out on iTunes.

It wouldn’t be easy to become one of the top bands on the label, but without any proper touring experience, previously-released EPs or available demos, Panic! took over the rock world like a firestorm with the release of Fever and the monstrous single, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”.

Panic! at the Disco is a dreamlike success story. Legend has it that one of the band members found Patrick Stump after a Fall Out Boy concert, handed him a demo tape, and then Pete Wentz personally flew out to Las Vegas to sign the band. If any of that is true, I have no idea, but it’s cool to think about.

Panic! had something special about them that rose above the rest of the Fueled by Ramen crew. Their songs had the hooks, wordplay and instant memorability of Fall Out Boy, mixed with relentless digital and techno overtones backing the flaming power chords. The dreary, macabre nuances, the likes of which only teenagers and kids in their early twenties are able to create, added a mystique to the band that made them utterly irresistible.

The concept of Panic! at the Disco originally set up to be a themed stage act from Vegas. The album cover featured an array of burlesque dancers, and although I never got a chance to see them, rumors of their live show swept the scene; tales of a circus act, stilts and a crazy light show the band brought with them on stage. Plus, the persona on magazines and music videos of young men dressed dashingly with creepy, painted faces made them hard to ignore.

Not only was this band impossible to avoid, it was impossible not to love them.

The allure of pop punk in 2005 was that the bands were finding new ways to make music harder, make the songs catchier, and make the lyrics sexier and immediate. The song “Introduction” was nothing more than the sound of an old fashioned radio scanning the airwaves, with the fleeting message of “Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly present a picturesque score of passing fancy” followed immediately with the lines of “Sit tight, I’m gonna need you to keep time / Come on just snap, snap, snap you fingers for me / Good, good now we’re making some progress / Come on just tap, tap, tap your toes to the beat” in the impossible to remember, but aptly titled song, “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage”. It was the first we heard Brendan Urie’s voice, and the perfect first few sentences to ensnare a generation of music lovers.

This song, and its title, were important to the band in many ways. For some reason, at this point in time, incredibly long song titles that usually had little or nothing to do with the actual contents of the song were made famous by Fall Out Boy, and Panic! followed suit. While not as outrageous or random as FOB, Panic!’s “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage” always impressed me by how perfectly it personified the band.

Taking a Vegas stage idea and transforming it into a pop punk act, accelerating rock music with techno beats and adding a gaudy dark emo personification, could only work if everyone was watching with interest. Otherwise, the band would look like yet another wannabe king of the emo rockers from the early 2000’s. Without the coverage that the band received almost immediately, the effort put into the stage act, the song writing risks, and the danger of being a headlining band that had barely played any shows was almost certain to prove not only suicidal, but build resentment amongst fellow bands and label-mates.

But the writing was right. It was captivating and spoke directly to the audience (“The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage”), alluded to the fact that the band wasn’t ready for this level of fame, so they’d better “Back their shit up”, (“London Beckoned Songs About Money Written by Machines”), invited them to dance (“Time to Dance”) and concealed the overtones of classic, old-fashioned jazz (“There’s a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought of It Yet”).

The fact that this album caught everyone’s attention with the amount of foreshadowed grandeur and glory is no surprise; that a group of kids with no experience as a band managed to pull it off and maintain that image is nothing short of a miracle. They managed to write an album with each song capable of being a massive single on its own, create a unique image, and learn how to be a headlining band while on the road.

A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out is a miraculous album. All things considered, with the innumerable amount of ways that this record should have collapsed in on itself from an inexperienced band, and the ways that touring and playing these songs live should have turned off the fan base, seeing Panic! at the Disco rise above it all added to the legend that seemed to grow within months of the record’s release.

Unfortunately, the band did eventually collapse with the departure of every original member, eventually becoming the solo project for Brendan Urie, who was forced to learn how to write songs, lyrics and how to play every instrument in order to maintain the majesty that A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out established. The legend surrounding it is one of the greatest stories not only in the scene, but in music as a whole.

It might be impossible to know exactly how the band came together, how they got their beak with Decaydance, or how they managed to create a behemoth from nothing in front of much more experienced bands, but that doesn’t take away from what the album is.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has been violently addicted to Panic! for ten years running. IS THERE NO WRONG THEY CAN MAKE?!!!

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