Artist: Panic! At The Disco
Album: Death Of A Bachelor
Record label: Fueled by Ramen/DCD2
Release date: January 15, 2016
Panic! At The Disco is now officially the Brendon Urie Show.
Perhaps that’s been the case since former head songwriter Ryan Ross left the band after Pretty. Odd., but by looking at the liner notes of Death of a Bachelor, it reads more like what you’d expect from a solo pop star’s album than the Panic! at the Disco that Pete Wentz first introduced to us over a decade ago. Each song has at minimum of two co-writers credited, and some of the biggest behind-the-scenes names in pop music appear on the record, including members of the Kaiser Chiefs, M83, and The Cab. Even Rivers Cuomo, who Panic! will share a stage with this summer, shows up for some fun on the album’s single, “Victorious”.
What’s interesting here is that in spite of there being so many new voices in the room, the songwriting is still what you’d expect from Brendon Urie. “Emperor’s New Clothes” is a perfect example of this. The song uses an old fable as a launching off point, and finds Urie cleverly proclaiming that he’s all dressed up and naked in the chorus, with a Gregorian choir coming out of nowhere about two-thirds of the way through the song. It’s all there, which is why it’s one of the album’s highlights. All the while, Urie’s attempt to assimilate to the climate of Top 40 is more apparent than ever before. To his credit, there’s plenty of silly goofballery to be found on Death of a Bachelor. The package in which it’s presented in is just more methodical than we might have anticipated.
The bombast tends to be the source of most of the album’s problems, especially in regards to the hooks. Everything comes crashing in like a wave with very little subtlety. And when you’re able to sniff out when the chorus is going to kick in 5 seconds before it actually does, it takes away from the listening experience. While “LA Devotee” falls into this category, it’s still an enjoyable song, albeit predictable. But there are plenty of times when Urie’s ideas get too cluttered to disregard the flaws. The idea behind sampling The B-52s’ “Rock Lobster” on “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time” feels like a fun addition initially, but then there’s this roaring guitar solo that plays over the iconic riff. The solo doesn’t play off well whatsoever, and instead drowns “Rock Lobster” out completely, defeating the purpose of having it there in the first place.
Oddly enough, the brightest moment from Death Of A Bachelor is when Urie dabbles in certain hip-hop motifs, production-wise. The string section intro on the eponymous track is eerily similar to the string intro to “Jadakiss’ ‘Gettin’ It In”, and the Trap inspired snare drums breathe the modern edge into the Frank Sinatra influenced sound Urie’s going for. Throughout the album, Urie pays lip service to the idea of infusing the old with the new, whether it be through the aforementioned “Rock Lobster” sample, or by name dropping Steve McQueen and members of the Beach Boys. This works best on “Death of a Bachelor” because Urie’s not stomping over one side in favor of the other. He achieves perfect harmony.
It’s impossible to figure out where exactly a Panic! At The Disco album is going to lead you before you actually hear it. With a musical chairs act of band members and collaborators, the only constant is Brendon Urie and his knack for theatrics. So while the songwriting and vocals will always be expectedly playful and enjoyable, who Urie collaborates with and how he uses each of those people to surround his words can change at a moment’s notice. Death of a Bachelor has shown Brendon Urie pulling Panic! at the Disco towards new directions. Some of those directions show promise and should be explored, while others are probably best left undiscovered.
Article by Gregory Cala.