Panic! At The Disco’s fifth studio album sees Brendon Urie attempt to grab hold of the reigns his previous bandmates have thrown off, leaving Urie as the only remaining member of a band that burst onto the music scene over a decade ago.
However, Panic’s latest offering rolls back the years, Urie’s exuberance is palpable throughout the record particularly in the euphoric choruses of ‘Victorious’ and ‘LA Devotee’. The fact that he is the only member left standing has given him the freedom to experiment lyrically, as well as with ‘champagne, cocaine, gasoline and most things inbetween’ in ‘Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time’ telling the story of a wild college party that got slightly out of hand.
Urie also embraces many different musical styles, including bass synths in ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ that wouldn’t be out of place on a Skepta track and gospel vocals on ‘Hallelujah’. I found this approach very refreshing because it would have been easy to have produced a record that was more conventional but the fact he has embraced other elements makes for a more rounded LP in my view.
This doesn’t mean that Urie has neglected the style of track that brought initial success, with my personal favourite ‘LA Devotee’ reminding me of their Chuck Palaniuk inspired song titles from their 2005 debut, namely ‘London Beckoned Songs About Money Written By Machines’. It features an upbeat synth-pop tempo throughout, the end of both verses paving the way for a dancey chorus, the sort that has you lulling your head deliriously and humming, causing everyone to stare at you, unaware of your internal joviality.
Not surprisingly given the song title, ‘Victorious’ continues in the same fashion, again featuring Brendon Urie’s unique speciality whereby he appears to be able to sing three lines in about three seconds and you don’t quite know what’s hit you, featuring ‘shooting fireworks like it’s the fourth of July’ and the backing vocals providing the real punch and uplift for this track as well as standing out lyrically as Brendon has ourselves ‘pouring champagne over us… living like a washed up celebrity’.
For all the energy present, Urie shows that he is no longer an exuberant, gung-ho youth in the title track ‘Death Of A Bachelor’ which demonstrates his surprisingly lengthy vocal range against the backdrop of saxophones. This is a well constructed modern attempt at a 1950s ballad. ‘Crazy=Genius’ is similar in its modernism not least through its song title but also through its mention of Brian Wilson providing a slick epochal contrast, and again the instrumental backdrop suggesting Brendon might have been enjoying Strictly Come Dancing a little too excessively.
What makes this record so well rounded is its reflective nature, conveying a sense of nostalgia, that because Urie is the last man standing this may be his last hurrah under the Panic! At The Disco name. ‘The Good, The Bad and The Dirty’ implies defiance, showing Urie is determined to carry on the band’s project despite internal turmoil saying ‘it was always going to end’ but ‘if you wanna throw the first punch make it a good one’.
‘Golden Days’ reflects possible regret that he is now alone in recording the record, reminiscing of glorious moments he shared in the past with former bandmates ‘forever younger growing older just the same’ as ‘all the memories we make will never change’. In ‘House of Memories’ he pleads to be ‘promised a place in your house of memories’, inadvertently asking for the music world to remember this band amidst its possible demise. ‘Impossible Year’ ends the record on a very sombre note, with an evocative piano entrance paving the way for ‘no good times … just a beachfront of bad blood’ which may be the lamentation of the unfairness of society but there’s also ‘no you and me … just heartache and heartbreak’.
Overall, the record seems to be a synopsis of Panic! At The Disco’s career, encompassing its energetic early years with the regret of broken friendships that have ultimately disbanded the group to one member. I’m not sure if this record will be Panic’s last, and I hope it isn’t because on the evidence Urie provides us with through the release of Death Of A Bachelor, he still has a lot more to offer.