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Friday, June 16, 2006

Going to Panic

With friends and family, I normally do not take pleasure in watching them fail. However, when I see a band made up of people I don't know that are essentially doomed from the start, I get a weird sense of pleasure when things start to fall apart. This week, a certain article on Panic! At the Disco made me feel such pleasure.

The band recently parted ways with their bass player, Brent Wilson. As for why he left, that depends on who you ask. His former bandmates say his departure was due to a "lack of responsibility and the fact that he wasn't progressing musically with the band." Wilson thinks he was kicked out of the band because of money. With a headlining club tour coming up, the band is set to make a nice sum of money in return. However, Wilson's accusation was countered by what I think is one of the funniest lines in the story:

Panic contend that this statement just isn't true, and that most of the money the band is set to make on the tour is being spent before it even materializes, on expensive stage props and guest performers (Los Angeles-based Vaudeville troupe Lucent Dossier was recently added to the bill for all shows).

Yup, stage props and guest performers. Is this a rock band or amateur theater? The point is, I get the feeling that this band is trying to cover up some major holes here. Not to be arrogant about it, but I sensed these holes early on.

I'll admit that what little I've heard of the band's record, A Fever That You Can't Sweat Out, is not bad at all. Yes, it's a little goofy and juvenile, but I don't take it too seriously. However, I get the feeling that these guys think they are serious. That's where things go haywire.

Panic! is signed to Decaydance, an imprint of Fueled By Ramen that is owned by Pete Wentz. There are plenty of similarities between Wentz's band Fall Out Boy and Panic!, but the key difference is that Panic! presents themselves as a little suave and arrogant. Fall Out Boy comes across to me as a few guys having a good time while they play for "the kids." Panic! comes across to me as trying to have a good time but with a lot of strutting and posing in the process.

From the first time I laid eyes on them with this picture, I got a bad feeling. Here are four guys who look like they're still in high school trying to be daring and unique. They've been brainwashed into thinking that they can stand out by looking like this. Well, they look like poseurs in the process. The look on singer Brendon Urie's face says to me, "I'm trying to be cool by trying to look charismatic." The same can be said for the rest of the guys in the pics. Learning more about them through various articles, I can't help but think these guys are really being taken for a ride.

The music industry loves to take people on rides, but they could really care less about what happens when the ride is over. They're looking for new people to take on rides and this is where the really sad part begins. "Panic was my life," Wilson explained. "I'm 18 and I thought I had things figured out: I gave up baseball in high school because of this band, and I could've gotten a college scholarship," he said. "Now I'm taking some classes and my dad owns his own business, so I'm helping him out. But I'm not going to lie: The whole thing is really difficult. I never thought my best friends would do this to me."

I don't think there is one magical solution to this. A part of me wants to blame bands that fall into the trap of wanting to do a band full-time beyond their means. Another part of me wants to blame the music industry for creating the mirage that this can happen without severe repercussions. Ultimately, I think the individuals caught up in the dream get hit the hardest when they wake up. A band like Panic! At the Disco is more likely to be remembered like Winger is: fun for the time being, but forever joke fodder at a later time.

I get the feeling that these guys simply want to play in a band and not sell themselves short. I don't fault them for that, yet ambitions can blind us so much that we can really lose our sense of purpose. This is what I'm seeing, but I doubt they realize that. As much as I would like to experience things on my own, I can't help but side with people that people that have gone through the whole experience rather than ones that are just beginning their's. Seeing the gluing, ungluing and repairing process of many bands over the years, I can't help but sound like a cautious older brother here.

3 comments:

pimplomat said...

I don't believe major labels taking bands for a ride is anything new. Just look at the Cure. The label, Hansa, signed them based on their looks alone. Once Robert Smith figured that out, they broke the contract. Luckily (or unluckily, if you hate the band), they kept the group together and found a welcome ear with upstart Fiction Records.

I don't think there's anything wrong with being idealistic and ambitious. Rock 'n Roll should be idealistic. It's fueled by dreams. It thrives on the ideals of its practitioners. It's only limit is a lack of ambition.

Hopefully, this bass player guy won't lose his ambition and he'll put all his energy into another project. Now that he's seen the trap, he'll know where to step more carefully next time.

swirly girl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
swirly girl said...

I agree with what J says, to a point. That's what Rock 'n Roll is about, idealism--somehow you've managed to navigate the beast and say 'damn the man' all at once.

But.

This bass player..."Panic was my life," Wilson explained. "I'm 18 and I thought I had things figured out: I gave up baseball in high school because of this band, and I could've gotten a college scholarship," he said. "Now I'm taking some classes and my dad owns his own business, so I'm helping him out. But I'm not going to lie: The whole thing is really difficult. I never thought my best friends would do this to me."

And then J says: "Hopefully, this bass player guy won't lose his ambition and he'll put all his energy into another project. Now that he's seen the trap, he'll know where to step more carefully next time."

But you can tell from Wilson's statement he probably won't recover enough to try again in the music realm. He's not upset about the band so much as he feels betrayed by friends. That's a pretty hard thing to push past when it happens while doing something you love.