Brendon Urie Is Ending Panic! At The Disco On A Whimper

Let's remember the band as they were...

The news that Panic! At The Disco are disbanding is a bit underwhelming. Nineteen years of staple emo history, no more, adieu – even perhaps just two albums ago, yesterday’s announcement would have rocked the scene. But today’s Panic! At The Disco is nothing more than the pseudonym of last remaining member – not just original member, but member full stop – Brendon Urie, and the music has been his, not Panic!’s, for a long while. 

When the Panic! At The Disco formed in 2004, they had a vision. Joining the noisy niche of bands propelling emo music into the mainstream, Brendon Urie, Ryan Ross, Brent Wilson, and Spencer Smith were teenagers with voracious ambition, and the talent and originality to back it up. You can read the story of the fluctuating memberships from then on the band’s Wikipedia and draw your own conclusions (TL;DR, everyone left). But looking at the story told by their music, can we look back with pride on one of the most innovative bands of their time? (15 years ago, at least). 

When they began, Panic! At The Disco were undeniably a scene-leading creative force. Employing the weapons of emo music – angsty guitars, impassioned, poetic lyricism, and long, winding song titles – Panic! invited listeners into their world. But at whiplash-inducing speed, electronic inflections, baroque, addictively theatrical musicality, and vivid, vicious storytelling take centre stage. ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’ was a debut of immense proportions both in its musical daring and sheer conviction. The group leant into the aptly feverish excitement following early, loud endorsement from Pete Wentz who signed them to his label Decaydance upon hearing a single demo, and few bands since have delivered on – and exceeded, and defied – hype around a debut the way that Panic! did.  

Fever saw Panic! firmly entrenched in the emo canon, anointed by fans a member of the Emo Trinity alongside Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance. Masterpieces ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge’ and ‘From Under The Cork Tree’ had been released by then – so it was testament to Panic!’s excellence that they were placed on that level with their own masterpiece. And it’s testament to the group that even when they released the divisive but delightful departure that was ‘Pretty. Odd.’ that they successfully kept the title, despite sounding more like The Beatles than remotely emo or like their debut at all.

The world they created there was more serene than the sticky, sexy burlesque bar of ‘AFYSCO’, but fans loved to live there anyway. And fans were rewarded for trusting the band enough to stick around too, with the opus that was third album ‘Vices and Virtues’ – combining their penchant for off-piste baroque-emo and polishing it up a little, the LP was the sound of a band at their creative peak, blending everything charming and weird and evocative they had into something that, looking back, is the sound of Panic! at its most defined.

It was the sound of a band at the apex of their potential – they had earned their spot amongst emo greats at that point, without a doubt. But the direction shifted, and the hints that they were actually heading towards being a pop band of massive proportions started to be realised. ‘Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die’ was the first album to feature just Brendon Urie on the cover, and fittingly so, as the group shifted towards a shinier sound. Whilst received well at the time by fans, with choice tracks making their way into the annals of Panic! history, looking back now is bittersweet. ‘Too Weird To Live…’ signalled the shift from Panic! At The Disco: creative force of emo invention, to Panic! At The Disco: vessel for Brendon Urie to be a star. 

An undeniably talented vocalist, post TWTL-Urie began to lean on his technical skill – keening high notes, Queen covers, Broadway-cum-arena-sellout performance antics – and ditch actual emotion. Each solo project since (‘Death Of A Bachelor’, ‘Pray For The Wicked’, Panic’s biggest mainstream radio success, and the tepid ‘Viva Las Vengeance’) have felt increasingly self-serving and decreasingly inventive or interesting – a sad fate for the legacy of a band whose name was once synonymous with innovation and feverish passion. 

Now that Brendon Urie has had a sit down with himself and decided the time is now to wrap things up, it will be telling which fans forge the reputation of Panic! At The Disco in emo history, and how they present it. Three perfect albums to be remembered, four mediocre ones to be relegated to sped-up TikTok audios feeding the attention span of a new generation of emos. And anyway, this generation’s emos are adequately fed already with the currently-active emo trinity of My Chem (back from the dead), Paramore (never left), and Fall Out Boy (returning to guitar music). All three of them, presumably eager to avoid the sort of slow death we’ve just watched consume Panic! At The Disco…

Words: Ims Taylor

Follow Clash

Buy Clash Magazine