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Album Review: Panic! At The Disco - 'Death of a Bachelor'

14 January 2016 | 12:01 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Underrated fire.

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Panic! At the Disco cop a bad rap. Be it the fact that all but one member has abandoned ship, or the fact that they jump through genres like bouncing castles, there’s always going to be that one guy at the party that scoffs down his vodka and lemonade and blurts, ‘oh, they’re still a band?’

After a feed of albums with fluctuating quality, they (or he, as in Brendon Urie, the ‘band’s’ sole member) have finally given fans an arsenal of tracks to defend them with. ‘Death of a Bachelor’ is an ironic title for the rebirth of their musical fire, which manifests in an almost flawless showcase of talent.

The first half of the album is a solid and arguably tongue-in-cheek hark back to the OG Panic!, the soundtrack to a Vaudevillian dance that is both confusing and glamorous. The party begins on ‘Victorious’, an anthemic, hooky firecracker that somehow paints glamour over awkward, reflective lines like 'living like a washed up celebrity'. ‘Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time’ is a companion track to ‘Victorious’, thematically and musically. Underpinned by circus piano and a cabaret-esque representation of party-life,  it’s hard to tell whether Urie is satirising it or celebrating it. Regardless of whether it’s being glorified on that song, hedonism is placed on a pedestal on the next track, as the writer of Mormon origins now preaches: ‘all you sinners stand up sing Hallelujah’.

Title track  ‘Death of a Bachelor’ provides soulful respite from its dance-y predecessors, a marriage of swing and pop beats that shows Frank Sinatra is not only a prevalent force on Urie's arm tattoo but in his songwriting. Urie indicates progression in his personal life by comparing himself two albums ago on ‘Sarah Smiles’ as a ‘guy livin’ on my own, waiting for the sky to fall’ to himself now, ‘walking the long road, watching the sky fall’.

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Despite his lament of the present, this LP does leave room to dwell on the past. That’s clear on ‘Golden Days’, one of the record's shiners (no pun intended), as a soaring chorus and epic shutdown of those annoying ‘forever young’ preachers snappily reinforces. ‘LA Devotee’ has a cool key change, but is a skip-worthy geographical lesson that bears no comparison to the demanding pop/swing of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Dirty’. Back to nostalgia, ‘House of Memories’ sounds like it hopped right off past record ‘Vices and Virtues’ onto the ‘Bachelor’ train, complete with musical evidence that Brendon Urie has one of the best vocal ranges in alternative music.

The closer of the album,‘Impossible Year’, very much builds on Urie's earlier exhumation of the legacy of Frank Sinatra. It’s hard to believe that the song’s strings, and its slow-swing depth, could have materialised in the mind of someone who only a few songs back brought us the line: ‘I’m not as think as you drunk I am’. Nevertheless, he pulls it off, supporting one point: Brendon Urie is the ultimate Sinatra Bobby Soxer. The sheer enjoyment that that brings us makes Panic! At The Disco's fifth studio album a memorable one, even if Ryan Ross still isn’t back, it’s like their Beatles phase never happened and 'Death of a Bachelor' doesn't sound exactly like 'A Fever You Can't Sweat Out'.

Combining traditional pop with modern pop rock should have been the worst thing to happen to music since modern pop rock. Instead, Panic! At the Disco have kicked themselves back off the ground with a huge album that’s rocketed up their musical quality like a NASA launch. Even though past members popping their heads up would be a nice treat, ‘Death of a Bachelor’ proves that Brendon Urie doesn't need an old crew aboard his new craft.

1. Victorious

2. Don't Threaten Me with a Good Time

3. Hallelujah

4. Emperor's New Clothes

5. Death of a Bachelor

6. Crazy = Genius

7. LA Devotee

8. Golden Days

9. The Good, the Bad and the Dirty

10. House of Memories

11. Impossible Year