The Last Shadow Puppets “Everything That You’ve Come to Expect” Album Review – Electrifyingly Striking Sonic Cinema

 

Following on from the unanimous success of Miles Kane and the Arctic Monkeys’ prismatic discographies; comprising the lo-fi Beach Boys-esque magnetism of “Suck it and See”, the mellifluous minimalism of “Humbug”, the mod-leaning “Colour of the Trap”, the symphonious rock and roll stylings of “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not”, the hip-hop infused hypnotism of “AM” and the post punk revival of fan favourite “Favourite Worst Nightmare”; and almost a decade since their platinum debut, “The Age of the Understatement” – selling a staggering 300,000 copies worldwide; The Last Shadow Puppets miraculously return with their sophomore album, entitled “Everything That You’ve Come to Expect”.

Since the release of their ebullient first album the British supergroup have undergone an enormous transformation, both sonically and physically, replacing unkempt bangs for slicked pompadours and buzzcuts, politically-leaning chamber pop with psychedelic dream pop, and the native soil of British Grove Recording Studios for the sunny stateside of Malibu’s notorious Shangri La Studios.

Similarly to the puppy-eyed innocence and messianic zeal of “The Age of The Understatement” – leaving critics in awe of the unexpected; Alex Turner and Miles Kane’s cinematic sequel paradoxically juxtaposes what their album title suggests.  If “The Age of the Understatement” is a Siberian Arctic Expedition, “Everything You’ve Come to Expect” is an adventure into the Amazon Rainforest with David Attenborough.

“Everything That You’ve Come to Expect” is a lavish Californian Confectionery, packaged with whimsical anecdotes, suggestive innuendos and voyeuristic romanticism.  This is showcased in the form of superlative single, “Aviation”, a blistering blockbuster baroque-pop thriller which is as mouth-wateringly memorable as the opening credits to Sam Mendes’ “Spectre”. Woven with Ennio Morricone guitar twangs and seductive brass embellishments, Aviation’s rich instrumentation and textured production makes it the perfect composition to represent Daniel Craig’s tetralogy of James Bond films – urbane, laboured and with a weakness for temptation – much like our two frontmen. However, the songwriting often feels forced and derivative, as Alex Turner swallows an entire Oxford dictionary in a desperate attempt to sound sophisticated and grandiose.

“Miracle aligner” is a sensual ballad which feels as strangely halogenic as the opening sequence from Terry Gilliam’s cult classic, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. Flourishing with transcendent orchestral string sections and choruses which are as addictive as recreational drugs; “Miracle aligner” is thought provoking and enigmatic – highlighting The Last Shadow Puppets most experimental work since Arctic Monkeys’ 2011 LP, “Suck it and See”. However, although the production is glossy and colourful, yet again, the duo’s substandard songwriting feels more like a bad trip. This becomes noticeable when the showmen softly chant “So what’s the wish, he’ll make it come true/ Simple as a line out of a Doo Wop tune” – demonstrating lyrics which are as metaphorical as they are carelessly lackadaisical.

As gripping as vampire fangs, “Dracula Teeth” is more irritatingly infectious than a petulant lovebite. From cacophonous West-end cabaret horns to tumultuous Mini Mansion-inspired synthetic tiffany bass drums, “Dracula Teeth” bleeds style, substance and class – a resoundingly beautiful triumph. However, unfortunately, this contagious composition isn’t complete without setbacks, as the song’s narrative feels as two dimensional and cartoonish as 60s horror shows, such as Bewitched and the Munsters. This becomes explicitly evident when Alex Turner compares a suffocating relationship with a woman to the fear of sanguivoriphobia, by suggesting “You’re hovering above my bed looking, Down on me, Haunted house sound effects, Dracula teeth” and “Lipstick on my pillow via my cheek, The full moon’s glowing yellow and the floorboards creek” – delivering countless nightmare analogies.

Revved up with the same theatrical intensity as “Aviation”; album title track, “Everything You’ve Come to Expect” and “Used to be my girl”, are as suspense-driven and filmic as a Quentin Tarantino classic. With fleeting baroque as moving as a Philharmonic Orchestra and silky soprano-esque vocals redolent of George Michael’s “Outside” – it’s The Last Shadow Puppets’ chromatic quality to sift between musical styles which are so reflective of their vintage sound.  Focusing on Miles’ obsequious obsession with a past lover, the starlet pleads “I’m a liar, I’m a cheat, a leech, a thief, The outside looks no good and there ain’t nothing underneath” as he attempts to win her back – gifting his most candid performance to date. However, my only criticism is that both these songs’ themes offer little to no scope other than stories about desire and heartbreak – a notion which remains ubiquitous throughout.

Opening with piercing violin stabs and bellicose-tempered guitar riffs, lead single “Bad Habits” is punchy, oppugnant and energetic – a certified lad’s anthem. From its dark and ominous interjections to honey-tongued harmonies heard throughout the choruses; “Bad Habits” paints a vivid painting of nymphomania and sexual gratification. However, much like bad habits themselves, Miles Kane’s wines of “Bad habits, Sick puppy, Thigh high, Knee deep” are irritating and feel annoyingly repetitive and unrehearsed.

“Pattern” witnesses Turner at his most pensive, fretting over the fragility of his psyche during a torrid comedown, confessing, “I slip and I slide like a spider on an icicle” – offering a rare glimpse of Turner’s adept lyrical talents. Mirroring the orch-pop often favoured by Iggy Pop on his latest star-studded project, “Post Pop Depression”, “Pattern” is emotionally terse and as structured as aesthetically pleasing symmetry. However, occasionally, the duo’s collaborative crescendos fall flatter than a horizontal line.

Laced in poetic promiscuity and suggestive stanzas, “Sweet Dreams, TN” is a sadistic slow burner – a monogamous medley filled with modern tales of lamenting love and feeling. Written as a love letter vying for the attention of girl at the heart of his objectifications, Turner pries “It’s just the pits without you baby, It’s really just the pits without you baby, It’s like everyone’s a dick without you baby, Ain’t I fallen in love” – showcasing Laura Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze. Unfortunately, the hopeless romantic’s affections share more similarities with poorly written excerpts from Fifty Shades of Grey, as Turner’s typically witty and poignant librettos are non-existence – failing to live up to the high standards displayed throughout his oeuvre.

“She Does The Woods” and “Element of Surprise” are by-products of the same blueprint used throughout the entire album. With fictions of failed intimacy and classically-imbued musical arrangements, every song features the same failsafe chronology and misses the originality and contextualisation of their previous solo work.

Channelling the fairylike fantasia of Matt Demarco’s “Another One” EP and the ethereally ambient nuances of Damian Rice’s “O”, comes the remotely tranquil album closer, “Dream Synopsis”. Philosophically deciphering the mechanics of a nonsensical dream, Turner questions “Visions of the past and possible future, Shoot through my mind and I can’t let go, Inseparable opposing images, When can you come back again?”, gifting his most mystifying and convincing vocal performance on the album. With insipid piano keys which emphasise the emotional prowess of Miles raw staccatos, and an introspective writing style which pays homage to Richard Ayoade’s Sundance festival film, “Submarine”; “The Dream Synopsis” is sonically mesmerising and visually stunning. However, occasionally, the simplistic nature of the track becomes as paralysing as sleep paralysis, as the choruses lack finesse and fail to reach a definitive climax.

To conclude, although “Everything You’ve Come to Expect” is dynamic, temerarious and transcendently beautiful, the songwriting feels lyrically trite and offers very little in contrast conceptually. In addition, apart from “Aviation” and “Bad Habits”, the stylisation of this record becomes monotonous and predictable – and as a result, the rest of the album feels like a transitional period to tie fans over until the release of new material from The Arctic Monkeys and Miles Kane. If everything’s what you’ve come to expect, don’t expect anything revolutionary.

 

6/10

 

Written and published by James Macdonald.

R E D // 02-05-16

 

Centuries have,

Conditioned us,

To think,

In brown,

And pink

Identities branded,

Barcode black and white,

By origin of ethnicity,

Or the pigment,

Of our skin

If the colour spectrum,

Shines a thousand shades,

Of you & I,

Inconceivable to human eyes;

Prejudice is ultraviolet,

Racism is colour blind.

Written and published by James Macdonald

Blink 182 “Bored to Death” Track Review: Nothing new, but a soaring comeback nonetheless

 

Over the past two decades Blink 182 have cemented their status as rightful heirs to the pop-punk throne. With a legendary career-spanning discography at their disposal, including “Enema of The State”, “Take Off Your Jacket and Pants” and the self-titled “Blink 182”; the troublesome trio have manifested a universally recognised signature sound, which not only represents a golden age for musical reinvention and indie sub-culture, but reflects a generational shift within alternative music. Renowned for using charming and charismatic songwriting to disguise their vulgarity and bathroom humour; Blink 182 have become an arena-sized, hit-making machine, known for churning out gargantuan hooks and fruitful choruses more flavoursome than two pence sweet dispensers.

However, since the turbulent fallout of Tom Delonge’s departure – the leading mouthpiece and co-founder of Blink, the death of lifelong producer and dear friend Jerry Finn, and the post-replacement of Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba; much skepticism has surrounded the future of the band and what the new incarnation of Blink 182 will sound like.

Fast forward five years after 2011’s forgettable Neighbourhoods album and Blink 182 have silenced speculative fans with the explosive release of a graphic novel-esque lyric video entitled “Bored to Death”; the spine-tingling first single from the “Rock Show” rockers’ long-awaited sixth studio album; “California”. Recorded by veteran producer and Goldfinger frontman, John Feldmann has an aptitude for transforming songs into fully fledged head-bangers – demonstrated through his collaborations with 5 Seconds of Summer, All Time Low, Panic! At The Disco,  Black Veil Brides, We Came As Romans and Electric Love.

Compacted with a conglomeration of rampant guitar licks, riveting bass-lines and rambunctious drum solos, “Bored to Death” features the emotional integrity of “Missing You”, the euphoric elation of “What’s My Age Again?”, and the philosophic sensuality of “Up All Night” – a testament to all of their previous work. The lyricism is conceptual and terse, with Mark Hoppus narrating the trials and tribulations of a tedious and estranged relationship. He extorts “There’s an echo pulling out the meaning, rescuing a nightmare from a dream” and “The voices in my head are always screaming, that none of this means anything to me” with painstaking trepidation in his voice – gifting his most Herculaneum vocal performance since 2003’s “Always”. Additionally, Matt Skiba’s backing vocals effortlessly compliment the track’s soaring instrumentation and Hoppus’ angelic choral harmonies – a valiant and spirited contribution to the song.

Although “Bored to Death” may highlight a lack of progression for Blink 182 stylistically and sonically – by returning to their distinctive hybrid sound of roaring guitars with fizzing distortion instead of experimenting with different musical genres and utilising electronic equipment such as drum machines and electronic beat pads – fans will appreciate Mark, Travis and Matt sticking to their roots and Blink sounding quintessentially Blink.

 

7/10

 

Check out the “Bored to Death” lyric video here:

 

For more information regarding Blink 182’s earth-shattering summer tour, click on the link below:

http://www.blink182.com/

Written and published by James Macdonald.

 

P E R F E C T D A Y // 30-04-16

Beautiful morning;

Sun shimmering high,

As we paint perfect portraits,

Not a cloud in the sky

With pools to bathe in,

Of crystalline blue,

What a magnificent life,

For me & you

Beneath champagne showers,

Confetti will shoot,

In palaces of paradise,

Made for two

Transfixed in the Twilight,

We’ll watch birds take flight,

As dawn turns to dusk,

and day turns to night

Serenaded by silence,

As the world passes by,

A moment of solace,

Between you & I

*Daydreams*

Mouthfuls of forever,

Sweet whispers say,

Oh, what a feeling:

“A Perfect Day”

In the dark of the hour,

Stars will shine,

Your eyes glisten like diamonds:

Precious adamantine

Memories made,

In essence of time,

Waiting on words,

Hard to define

No camera lens,

Can capture,

The emotion,

Of today:

This is my “I Love You”

“A Perfect day”.

Written and published by James Macdonald

Foxes “All I Need” Album Review: Queen of Synthpop Royalty

 

In 2013, Southampton songstress Louisa Allen (not to be confused with Lily Allen), most commonly known as stage persona Foxes, became an overnight sensation with the release of her euphoric debut album, “Glorious”. Since winning a Grammy for her “Clarity” collaboration with renown EDM artist Zedd, featuring on Fall Out Boy’s monumental comeback record “Save Rock and Roll”, opening for megastar Pharrell Williams’ Happy world tour, and establishing herself as an ambassador for British pop music – Foxes has catapulted herself to the highest zenith of stardom.

Fresh from British pastures, Foxes joins an influx of emerging home-grown talent in the UK – Dua Lipa, Charli XCX, London Grammar – all producing authentic, glossy, organic, tasteful music. However, unlike the tropically fruitful-sounding stylings of Dua Lipa’s “Be The One” EP and the urban underground pastiche of Charli XCX’s PC SOPHIE-produced “Vroom Vroom” project, Foxes’ musical style is “pop” in its purest form – personal, unapologetic; and without gimmicks – a style that is celebrated on blockbuster-sized singles, “Youth”, “Let Go for Tonight” and “Holding onto Heaven”.

So after the unanimous success of “Glorious”, can sophomore album “All I Need” recapture the magic and originality of her first album?

“All I need” is sophisticated, emotionally captivating and an autobiographical manifestation of dejection and dolour. This is showcased in the form of “Body Talk”; a defiant, electropop classic that feels as vibrant as a 80s neon roller disco. From the plaintive cries of “Days like these, I just want you back, I can’t breathe, I can’t even speak”, with Foxes eulogising the heartbreak from a former relationship; to the single’s dark, dolorous choruses, reminiscent of M83’s “Midnight City” – “Body Talk” is easily a contender for song of the year.

Produced and co-written by Bastille’s Dan Smith, “Better Love” is an oriental-tinged lullaby that is equally as enchanting as it is heart-rending. Confined by the clutches of a haphazard relationship, Foxes harps “I do my best to ease your pain, and here we are, but we’ve learned nothing, and it’s killing me”, as her thoughts of resentment trap her like a silk woven spider’s web.  From a dreamy Cyndi Lauper-esque instrumental, to a textured macrocosm of vociferous, big beat drums and atmospheric vocals; Foxes has a gift of transforming misery into melancholic masterpieces.

Another notable moment from Foxes’ second instalment is slinky RnB dancehall groove, “Cruel”. Comprising modern calypso soul with soca, and carrying the 90s nostalgia & club swagger of Missy Elliott’s “She’s a Bitch”; “Cruel” is seductive, beaming with summery hooks, and extremely memorable – possessing all of the qualities of fully-fledged universal floor filler.

Aside from the aforementioned highlights, every track on “All I Need” could enact as a single. With the indie sensibilities of “Wicked Love” and “Lose My Cool”, to the bravura of insipid piano-closer “On My Way”; this album’s succinct songwriting and slick production effortlessly make it a compelling contemporary pop record, cementing Foxes’ status as a world beater.

However, it’s not entirely without faults and flaws. Ballads “Devil Side” and “If You Leave Me Now” lack the emotional trajectory and rawness of previous singles “Holding onto Heaven” and “Glorious”, and, as a result, Foxes’ vocals sound unenthusiastic and dialled in. Upbeat “Amazing” is as uplifting as it is commercially sickening, and “Money” feels like a cheaply recorded Logic project, with lyrics which rehash Jessie J’s “Price Tag”.

To conclude, although “All I Need” is laced in strong melodies and glossy production, it ultimately feels like a collection of songs specifically designed by Syco’s record label for breaking America and gaining commercial radio airtime, rather than a body of songs that adopt the charisma and flair consistently found throughout Foxes’ debut album. Allen is an immensely talented musician, a spine-chilling vocalist and an all-round superstar, making “All I Need” all that more disappointing for failing to leave an everlasting impression.

 

5/10

 

Written and published by James Macdonald.

Y O U // 01-03-16

Most stargazers,

Seek infinite universes,

In girls so celestial;

All the planets perfectly align

But I was unlike any astrophile

And she was a space odyssey like no other

Amidst the aurora and stardust

Through

Every collapse

And creation

Resonates the

Atoms of

You

&

I

Poem written and published by James Macdonald.

Kanye West ‘The Life of Pablo’ Album Review: America’s answer to Picasso?

After a series of track listing teases, Twitter meltdowns and album title alterations; Kanye West debuts his highly anticipated seventh studio album, “The Life of Pablo”, at NYC’s Maddison Square Gardens (during the premiere of his Yeezy Season 3 clothing line) – playing host to a plethora of fashion designers, respected musicians, live streaming Tidal subscribers and the infamous Kardashians. “The Life of Pablo” highlights (no pun intended) the American rapper’s musical evolution as an artist, as he goes full circle on his extensive hip-hop oeuvre; comprising the intermittent and often braggadocious black punk of Yeezus, the melancholic minimalism of 808s & Heartbreaks, the audacious contemporary pop sensibilities of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and, at times, the alluring magnetism of his original trilogy.

The Life of Pablo’s angelic album opener, “Ultralight Beam”, harmoniously blends the paradisiacal blue-eyed soul of early 80s motown with infectious African American gospel polyrhythms – reminiscent of Kanye’s Graduation era.  With its powerful heartfelt lyricism; encompassing themes of forgiveness, redemption and serenity, “Ultralight Beam” is a plea, a confession, a testament towards God. Kanye West questions “Why send depression not blessings? You persecute the weak / Because it makes you feel so strong” amidst a phantasmagoric barrage of organ-warbling synths and auto-tune – delivering his most introspective work since 2015’s “Only One” collaboration with Paul McCartney. However, the American auteur isn’t the only miracle-worker on “Ultralight Beam”, as a myriad of guest spots deservedly bask in their own holy light. Chancellor Bennett oozes charisma and charm on his awe-inspiring verse about salvation, the importance of family and religion, preaching “I made Sunday Candy, I’m never going to hell, I met Kanye West, I’m never going to fail”; Kelly Price’s soaring a-capellas on her confessional choruses are biblical beyond belief and The Dream’s euphoric choral crescendos contain more effervesce fizz than a shaken up Coca Cola bottle.

In addition to the heavenly trio of Chancellor Bennett, Kirk Franklin and The Dream, a spellbinding assemblage of superstar features are effectively implemented throughout the entirety of “The Life of Pablo”; and only accentuate the album’s chaotic melodrama and explosive idiosyncrasies. Rihanna’s resplendent rendition of Nina Simone’s ‘Do What You Gotta Do’ transforms headline-garnering “Famous” into an instant classic, Frank Ocean’s hauntingly ambient contributions to “Wolves” are both spiritually liberating and sensually captivating – gifting a master class in texture, style and form, while The Weekend’s ominous marital-blues add emotional substance and sophistication to the album, as “FML” dissects the broken pieces of Kanye’s psyche like a complex jigsaw puzzle.

 

When it comes to taking abstruse songs and electrifyingly repurposing them; Kanye’s a master curator. Historically reworking Shirley Bassey’s  illustrious “Diamonds Are Forever” into “Diamonds From Sierra Leone”, The ARC Choir’s “Walk With Me” into fan-favourite “Jesus Walk”, Chaka Kahn’s sensual ballad “Through the Fire” into “Through the Wire” and many more – these rich melange of samples are representative of Kanye’s entire discography and unique identity as an artist.

“The Life of Pablo” follows in the footsteps of its iconic predecessors, effectively sampling Pastor T. L. Barrett’s “Father I Stretch My Hand” and Desiigner’s “Panda” on appropriately titled “Father Stretch My Hands Pt 2”, Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” and Nina Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on aforementioned “Famous”, Whodini’s “Friends” on pensive “Real Friends”, Arthur Russell’s “Answers Me” on sporadic “30 Hours”, Walter “Junie” Morrison’s “Suzie Thundertussy” in jaunty “No More Parties In LA” and Mr. Fingers’ “Mystery of Love” on Fade.

As for lyrical content on the album, “The Life of Pablo” is more obscene than the man himself. With the departure of distinguished co-writer and regular collaborator Rhymefest, Kanye’s librettos on his seventh installment suffer from a severe case of verbal diarrhoea. For example, he explicitly retorts “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous” on controversial “Famous”, “Now if I fuck this model / And she just bleached her asshole / And I get bleach on my T-shirt / I’mma feel like an asshole” on misogynistic “Father Stretch My Hands Pt 1” and “I love you like Kanye loves Kanye” on neurotic ode, “I Love Kanye” – on what documents the Roc Nation rapper’s most car crash songwriting to date.

To conclude, “The Life of Pablo” isn’t a self-professed “gospel album”, but a wildly fragmented farrago of narcissistic self-obsession and artistic affectation. Every spasmodic gospel snippet, smooth soul intermission and montage of musical spasms on the album aims to capture the essence of Pablo Picasso’s artistry – abstraction, originality and timelessness; but ultimately, aside from its ephemeral moments of sonic, melodic and poetic brilliance, Kanye’s greatest efforts to cultivate a magnum opus result in shambolic confusion and disillusionment. The production feels lively and well-polished, but is all too often camouflaged by the album’s structurally jarring incohesiveness. Also, tracks such as “Lowlights”, “Freestyle 4”, “Silver Surfer Intermission” and “Facts” feel like unnecessary filler.

Although “The Life of Pablo” is sometimes as comically laughable as “The Life of Brian”, it certifies Kanye West’s status as the most unpredictable artist in contemporary pop. He’s no American Picasso, but his music sure feels as dangerous as Pablo Escobar.

 

6/10

 

Written and published by James Macdonald.

I N E Q U A L I T Y // 02-01-16

 

Why are moths treated worse than butterflies,

And bluebottles are only infatuated by death & what dies,

What if flamingos were regarded as masculine/feminine creatures,

And iguanas no longer felt invisible to naked eyes.

 

Why are terrapins treated worse than turtles,

And vultures are bedeviled by the thought of what rots,

What if ugly ducklings were deemed as beautiful as white swans,

And wild leopards were commemorated for changing their spots.

 

What if dark horses were heroic and natural born winners,

And wasps’ temperament weren’t as self destructive as bees,

Why are underdogs discounted before running a race,

And elephants are plagued by insecurities.

 

In a world that picks apart our imperfections,

In our faults and in our flaws,

That discriminates against our differences,

And abuses us like animals.

 

We are all beautiful,

And deserve to be loved equally,

Us and organisms alike,

Won’t be punctured by prejudice,

And celebrate peace & diversity.

 

This world epitomises beauty;

From every footmark to footprint that walks the earth beside you,

Every animal should be equal,

Every man and woman too.

 

Poem written and published by James Macdonald.

(Copyrighted to James Macdonald)

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.