In 2005, the snarky indie-rock snob bible Pitchfork decimated the debut release from Panic! At the Disco, “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out,” with a review that posited the band as part of “an entire new generation of slick, generic, mall-store neo-emo” and went on to ask the immortal question, “Where does one begin to describe this steaming pile of garbage?”
I laughed heartily at the time, and reading back through the review recently, I laughed again. Because, well, “mall-store neo-emo” is hilarious, plain and simple. And its application to Brendon Urie and Panic! at the Disco is not wholly off the mark. After all, this is a band that asked us to take seriously a debut album with song titles like “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage” and “There’s A Good Reason These Tables are Numbered, Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought of it Yet.” Pretentious twaddle, anyone?
Of course, Pitchfork has been known to offer its own pretentious twaddle as valid music criticism, so it is a bit rich when they call out an artist for engaging in similar activity. When Panic! released that debut album, Urie was a mere 18 years old. In the time since, he’s grown, as one would hope. And if the man still rubs the odd critic the wrong way, he still deserves credit for pursuing an interesting path, one that led him to sole proprietorship of the Panic! brand – mostly because all his bandmates flew the coop on him. For the past give years, Urie has run the band as essentially a solo endeavor, and during that time, he has proven eager to stretch the stylistic boundaries of the “mall-store neo-emo” he pioneered. And despite losing his bandmates, Urie has steered the Panic! ship like a confidant captain. In the process, he’s landed on the welcoming shore of commercial pay dirt.
Urie has not abandoned his tendency for navel-gazing verbosity, but the band’s intensely loyal fan base quite likely wouldn’t have it any other way. When the band kicks off the second leg of its “Pray for the Wicked Tour” at 7 p.m. Jan. 10 in KeyBank Center, that “cult of Urie” will be in full evidence, quite likely singing right along with their man’s mega-texty lyrics at the top of their lungs. Tickets are $35.25 - $75.25 through tickets.com.
Into the mystic
A colleague recently hipped me to YouTube footage of the Belfast Bard, Van Morrison, playing a freakishly odd but deeply moving version of “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” with congregation members at the Agape International Spiritual Center in Los Angeles, and I was reminded why I feel in love with the man’s music in the first place. At once emotionally naked and crankily guarded, Morrison and his music marry folk, R&B and soul forms in an oft-imitated, never-replicated manner. Buffalo musicians Jim Doersam, Dave Ruch, Brad Robbins and Joe Bellanti plan to celebrate Van the Man’s idiosyncratic brilliance with “Queen City Jamboree’s Moondance: A Night of Van Morrison” at 9:30 p.m. Jan. 4 in the Sportsmen’s Tavern (326 Amherst St.) I plan to be there.