Panic! at the Disco – Death of a Bachelor
Three down, one to go. With the departure of drummer Spencer Smith last year, Brendon Urie is now the sole surviving member of the lineup which saw Panic! at the Disco explode onto the scene with debut album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. The band has since gone through countless stylistic changes and fifth studio album Death of a Bachelor is the latest.
Opening track Victorious is home to some truly lovely vocal melodies in the verses but the rest of the song just sounds like a Fall Out Boy (2013-present) cover band. Where Victorious at least has the verse melodies to slightly redeem it, Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time has absolutely nothing going for it. Produced by pop behemoth JR Rotem and co-written with Ricky Wilson (of British pop band Kaiser Chiefs and judge on The Voice fame), this song was pretty much doomed from the start and is quickly forgotten.
Following tracks Hallelujah and Emperor’s New Clothes don’t improve the level of quality, with the latter obviously focusing on the topic of the band falling apart and getting to where it is now, while sounding as bratty and ‘I deserve better’ as possible.
“Welcome to the end of eras
Ice has melted back to life
Done my time and served my sentence”
The album seems to find a groove after the first four tracks however, with the songs now sounding more purposeful and thought out. Title track and lead single Death of a Bachelor is an unexpected triumph as, on paper, a ‘Sinatra meets Beyoncé’ track sounds like it’s destined to be a catastrophe yet Brendon somehow pulls it off. Were he to opt for a major directional shift and do a crooning album à la Robbie Williams and the ace Swing When You’re Winning, I reckon he’d be able to more than satisfactory job.
Crazy=Genius isn’t bad either. The minor melodies, baroque pop/swing influenced offbeat rhythm and belting sing-along chorus show Brendon hasn’t completely forgotten the pompous and sleazy Panic that so many fell in love with.
However, this is all quickly abandoned for LA Devotee. A straightforward pop tune that does have a catchy hook and sweet key change, but very little else. It aptly signals an upcoming drop in quality as we hit a sequence of forgettable tracks. Golden Days and its stadium-rock anthem of a chorus gets monotonous fast while The Good, The Bad and The Dirty has no redeeming factors. With its bombastic electronic drums and awkward sampling, this could easily have been on either of Fall Out Boy’s last two albums. Just like following track House of Memories. While it does have a pretty nice beat switch in the middle 8, that’s really all it has going for it. It’s a wonder why Brendon ever thought the generic “whoa-oh-oh-oh-ohhh” vocals in the refrain were a good idea. I genuinely had to open up Spotify to see if I’d accidentally played an earlier track again. That’s not a good thing.
That being said, we’re treated to a real gem with album closer Impossible Year. Stripped back to just Brendon’s compelling vocals, a piano, and a horn section, this is probably the strongest track on the album. It’s absolutely dripping with emotion, passion and tenderness, further indicating that a Sinatra-esque direction is something Brendon really needs to explore.
The lyrics throughout the album are generally pretty weak. The chorus of Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time is just one of many examples.
“This night is heating up
Raise hell and turn it up
Saying “If you go on, you might pass out in a drain pipe”
Don’t threaten me with a good time”
Similarly, the production’s a Goddamn mess. Each song is an unpolished cacophony and begs the question ‘is that down to the production/mixing?’ Possibly. But writing parts that just overlap and blend into each other is also a major fault. This can be attributed to the fact that this is The Brendon Urie Show now. There’s no denying Brendon is a very talented fellow (accomplished multi-instrumentalist and powerful vocalist etc.). But the overall quality of songs definitely suffers from not having the same creative force the band once had with all original members active. There’s little to no variety in the playing or song structures and with each passing album it’s more evident just how integral Ryan and Jon (and now Spencer) were.
Overall, Death of a Bachelor is a weak album with a couple of promising moments. It’s better than the last effort ‘Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die’. But not by much. With the exception of the recommended songs below, it’s not worth your time and won’t be winning them any new fans.
Favourite Songs: Death of a Bachelor, Crazy=Genius, Impossible Year