Panic! At the Disco ‘Death of a Bachelor’ album review: Art of reinvention

Since Panic! At the Disco’s rise to prevalence in 2005, the Vegas virtuosos have released a certified platinum record, dominated the Billboard 200 and continued to cement their status in contemporary pop culture; and to add to their ever-growing list of achievements, the band celebrate the tenth anniversary of their exceptionally diverse discography; playing host to a kaleidoscope of sounds and influences throughout the musical spectrum. From the vaudevillian theatrics of revolutionary debut “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out”, to the 80s bombast of Hunter S. Thompson inspired “Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die”; Panic has become renowned for their art of reinvention. The Nevada native’s latest release, “Death of a Bachelor” is no exception, as the band’s fifth album signifies a seismic shift towards modern pop supremacy.

However, since the release of psychedelic sophomore album “Pretty Odd”, Panic! At the Disco has become a revolving door of former band members, suffering casualties from primary lyricist Ryan Ross and drumming dynamo Spencer Smith, leaving mouthpiece and multi-instrumentalist, Brendon Urie at the forefront of future artistic discretions. The frontman has now become a talisman for everything that’s prototypically Panic. Aside from a collection of co-writing credits on the first three songs of “Death of a Bachelor”, including top 40 mega-mind J.R Rotem, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo & regular collaborator Jake Sinclair, every haunting melody, every punk rock cliché, is Urie’s brainchild.

Victorious

With a smorgasbord of grandiloquent cheerleader chants and mellifluous guitar grooves – highly reminiscent of Demi Lovato’s “Cool for the summer”, “Victorious” is an anthemic powerhouse which serves as a slice of delectable pop indulgence. From the Freddy Mercury-esque roars of “Double bubble disco queen headed to the guillotine, let me be your killer king”, to the eruptive choruses of “Oh we gotta turn up the crazy, Living like a washed-up celebrity”; the charismatic frontman showcases a series of vocal summersaults more acrobatic than a team full of Olympian athletes. Accompanying the solo act’s spellbinding sostenuto, the production is lively, effervescent and somewhat pugnacious as ever, with influences deriving from The Who and Pink Floyd. However, although Urie’s natural freneticism in his vocal performance is executed with resounding conviction, it ultimately fails to encapsulate the big British rock band persona it tries to emulate.

Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time

“Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time” continues Panic’s long lineage of hedonistic hullabaloo by sampling the sonorous surf guitar riff from B52’s “Rock Lobster” in a similar fashion to Fall Out Boy’s “Uma Thurman”. This cautionary tale sees Urie embark on a juiced up joyride fuelled by “champagne, cocaine and gasoline”, as the young Sybarite questions what happens in the wake of the bacchanal. Is he willing to sacrifice a lifetime of sinnercism for married life? It’s these intoxicating thoughts which leave Urie hungover. With whimsical whines of “I roam the city in a shopping cart, A pack of camels and a smoke alarm” and drunken slurs of “I’m not as think as you drunk I am”, there’s credit due for their hilariously tongue and cheek wordplay.

However, for all its outstanding moments of eccentricity and enthralling storytelling, this track’s superfluous meshing of style, ranging from rap to 70s rock, suffer from sounding fragmented and the lyrics all too often become a cumbersome parody of themselves.

Hallelujah

Panic’s “Hallelujah” is a baroque-leaning, gospel-woven, uplifting rollercoaster of a first single. Infusing the jollification of Paramore’s “Ain’t it fun” with the funkalicious gleams of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”; this masterpiece will instantly have thousands of self-proclaimed “Sinners” worshipping its contagious melodies and irresistible harmonies. From the eerily cinematic sports-sounding opening, to the summery sing-a-long choruses of “All you sinners stand up sing hallelujah, show praise with your body stand up sing hallelujah”, Panic’s chameleon-like ability to evolve manifests itself firmly on this track, as they manage to sonically reinvent themselves whilst remaining quintessentially Panic.

Emperor’s New Clothes

Opening with a cascade of electronic stutters and pulsating basslines, “Emperor’s New Clothes” levers listeners into the darkest depths of Urie’s mind. With a Cantina band-lead horn sequence and the singer’s spine-tingling screams of “Finders keepers, losers weepers” reaching stratospheric heights, this wildly experimental phantasmagoria of sounds perfectly explores his demonic descend into madness.

Death of a Bachelor

The album’s title track, “Death of a Bachelor”, celebrates a moment of pure ingenious, as Urie’s sultry croons unequivocally sound like a re-modernised Frank Sinatra Classic; married to the stellar hip-hop production of Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love”. Aside from a myriad of tenor and trap influences, the song features a rather impulsive and thematic interlude. With its pixelated synthesisers and retro 8-bit jitters, this section sounds like it’s been sampled straight out of a Nintendo 64 classic.

“Death of a Bachelor” is irrefutably the most spellbinding song on the whole album, offering an abundance of originality, spontaneity and unorthodoxy and a renewed sense of versatility.

Crazy = Genius

“Crazy = Genius” cooks up a tantalising concoction of charlatan swing and 1920’s dance, as a combination of titillating horns and tumultuous tom-tom beats feel more animated than a Great Gatsby party on steroids. With its high octane rollicking and ostentatious shenanigans, it’s difficult to not picture the clinking of martini glasses as dancers jive the night away to the Lindy Hop.

This swingers’ anthem’s lyrical content is equally as rumbustious and unapologetic, as Panic replace tales of debauchery and intimacy with a prodigious amount of autobiographical jibes, directly referencing their post-“Pretty Odd” fallout. Urie sombrely spits “She said you’re just like Mike Love/But you’ll never be Brian Wilson,” – a stinging thorn in the side for any former member. For all of its flamboyant and spendthrift moments, this toe-tapper feels well calculated.

La Devotee

“LA Devotee” romanticises the splendour of Los Angeles’ fast and loose lifestyle, as the singer pays homage to “The black magic of Mulholland Drive” and “Swimming pools under desert skies”. With an oscillating swagger that carries the grandeur of Billy Joel’s “Big Shot” and a rhythmic pitter-patter which mimics Vices and Virtues’ “Let’s Kill Tonight”, this self-confessional love letter is an ode that fully captures the essence of big city dreaming.

Golden Days

“Golden Days” is a buoyant synth extravaganza which comprises the 90s raw-rock nostalgia of bands like Blink 182, Sum 41 and Green Day. Enacting as a modern counterpart to “There’s A Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought Of It Yet”, this composition possesses the lyrical potency of old Panic, while delving into notorious histrionics of Queen – a masterful combination. With its uplifting outcries of “Golden days” and obscure 70s references to “Farrah Fawcett hair” and “Carafes of blood red wine”; everything about this show-stopping belter demands a streaming confetti canon sized celebration.

The Good, the Bad & the Dirty

“The Good, the Bad & the Dirty” features a battle royal of pop sensibilities and superficial stories of bar-brawling angst. From looping Western whistles of “If you wanna start a fight, You better throw the first punch”, which remain prevalent throughout the chorus, to an onslaught of poetic incantations that pack a harder punch than a heavyweight boxer – this danceable number contains all the ingredients for a radio-friendly smash hit. With the band adopting a stronger pop orientation, “The Good, the Bad & the Dirty” only expands their rich palette of sounds and marks a natural evolution of each precursory record – an admirable accomplishment.

House of Memories

“House of Memories” is the Vegas Vagabond’s answer to Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. Featuring an assortment of haunting techno beeps and layered falsetto shrieks, this epic thriller apposes as a beautiful nightmare.  Around the midway point this house of memories transforms into a house of terrors, as a stunningly absence piano intermission entwines effortlessly around Urie’s yearning vocal swoons. During this surging climax Panic’s trademark fervour becomes paramount, as the singer’s soars of “Those thoughts of past lovers, they’ll always haunt me” are truly magical. However, for all of its atmospheric flashes of inspiration, the song eventually loses its sense of purpose and leaves the album on a slightly underwhelming note before its grand finale.

Impossible Year

“Impossible Year” showers itself in orchestral flair and sensual balladry, as Urie channels the emotional melancholy of Billy Joel’s heart-wrenching “Souvenir”. Solemnness leaves the singer in a pensive mood, eulogising a disastrous relationship made of “heartache and heartbreak, and gin made of tears” as he confronts the next chapter in his life. Ultimately, the album closer leaves listeners fulfilled, as Panic delivers one of their most beautifully poignant pieces of song writing to date.

A ‘Death of a Bachelor’, but a rebirth of an artist.

 

7/10

 

Written and published by James Macdonald.