Panic! At The Disco

Death Of A Bachelor

Written by: TL on 22/01/2016 13:14:46

With last year's departure of drummer Spencer Smith, Las Vegas-based Panic! At The Disco finally completed its long transformation from the 00's hottest emotronic pop-rock sensation on MySpace to the de facto vessel for the continued artistic efforts of main man Brendon Urie. And the new album, "Death Of A Bachelor", seems at a glance like a solo effort with a capital 'S', with Urie both singing lead and playing all the conventional rock instruments - guitar, bass, drums - yet horn playing session musicians are used almost constantly, and there are a bit of a host of external songwriters credited with the songs so... yeah, solo schmolo.

Considering this, it's not surprising to see the Panic! At The Disco brand slide ever further out on the fringes of the 'rock' scene it only ever had one leg in to begin with. And to describe it from the top down, the narrative between the album's lines is the ever familiar one of a talented individual trying to balance his creativity with the realities of growing a career as a popular musician. Because no-one should doubt Urie's talent. As a singer alone, he is blessed with a characteristic voice and a seemingly obsessively trained technique, as a lyricist he routinely comes up with ear-popping turns of phrase - "I'm not as think as you drunk I am" for instance, in "Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time" - and on more than one occasion his Brian May-adoring, theatrical guitar bits make for the liveliest part of the instrumentation on "Death Of A Bachelor".

Sadly, however, the album suffers from frequent symptoms of Urie's musical ADHD getting away from him, and from a Toys"R"Us like production drenched in the dime a dozen tendencies of contemporary chart music. This is clear from the first seconds of annoying cheerleader vocals that open first track "Victorious", which for a moment brings back unpleasant memories of Fall Out Boy's steepest fall from grace on their most recent "American Psycho", before it fortunately turns into one of the album's otherwise most impactful tracks - the prickly riff of the verse, coupled with the extreme charisma coming from both lyrics and vocal acrobatics actually making for a rather instantly irresistible tune. It becomes clear over the course of the following tracks, however, that "Death Of A Bachelor" has a serious case of 'simple radio chorus' syndrome, with its refrains often being quick to infect indeed, yet likely also just as quick to be forgotten. Whenever they hit, you just sort of wait for them to end so you can get back to the verses where Urie is more creative. Leading single "Hallelujah", in particular, is catchy and easily enjoyable, yes, yes, but mainly in a "could've been a Black Eyed Peas single" kind of way.

Perhaps more importantly, however, "Death Of A Bachelor" is in severe lack of memorable instrumental parts, in a very 'can't see the forest for the trees' kind of way. Urie's guitar is the irregular bright spot, yet it often takes a backseat to the many horns, as a consequence of Urie's desire to croon with the brass like a Sinatra, most clearly evident on the record's other highlight, which is its title track. Here is where the horns come the closest, though - here and in album closer "Impossible Year" - to sounding less like some counterfeit, run-of-the-mill, assembly line music that any pop artist could've bought from some catalogue to use for their album. Here they have at least some presence, giving these songs a sense of instrumental soul to complement their vocal hooks.

Outside of the highlights, "Crazy=Genius" reminds positively of the classic "There's A Good Reason These Table's Are Numbered Honey..", via its frantic, jazzy verses, but the main part of the chorus has been bogged down with unnecessary and uninventive "heeeey, hey hey!" 's. "LA Devotee" speeds ahead with an understated verse and a blooming build-up that sounds promising, yet again the chorus comes up a bit short, although echoing positively the vibes of the older "Vices And Virtues" album. Meanwhile "Emperor's New Clothes" and "The Good, The Bad And The Dirty" stand out more negatively, by lacking any distinct redemptive qualities.

Overall, the verdict is actually quick to arrive at, though, if you sit down and give "Death Of A Bachelor" an attentive spin or three. There are some brazen pop-hooks here to be enjoyed at face value, specifically in "Victorious" and "Death Of A Bachelor", and Brendon Urie still has edge, creativity and musical chops to spare. It would just be nice if he took a breath between each idea and found the integrity to stop drenching everything in 'chart music sauce'.


Download: Victorious, Death Of A Bachelor, Crazy=Genius
For The Fans Of: Fall Out Boy, fun., Marianas Trench

Release date 15.01.2016
Fueled By Ramen / Warner Music Group

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