Not too terribly long ago, Fall Out Boy made a massive comeback, only to shit on it shortly thereafter by collaborating with Demi Lovato, for some reason. While studies have yet to discover exactly what went through their minds, one related act that has managed to change clothes without alienating an entire audience is the ever-eccentric, quasi-cabaret, power pop performance known as Panic! At The Disco.
Death of a Bachelor follows 2013’s dark, synth-laden Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die. Panic! take a sharp turn here, returning some to their roots but with the atmosphere of a last hurrah. This is Brendon Urie’s definitive 2010s Top 40 equivalent to “Get Me To The Church On Time” — for a man clearly devoted to both modern Los Angeles and stage musicals, a coked up My Fair Lady moment is basically the most appropriate thing ever.
Urie, the sole remaining founding member of the band, recorded the album just before getting married. He’s led Panic! from boisterous to Beatles-esque to WTF, all while simultaneously shuffling the lineup. Add in relocating a Vegas native to the epicenter of Show Biz, and there’s a recipe for one big blowout and a healthy dose of cynical introspection.
From “Victorious” open to the closing hangover, the record plays like a tongue-in-cheek celebration of life changes, where maturity is the theatrical backdrop for sample-driven L.A. party mixes. The singles sum this all up perfectly: “Victorious” is the raucous pre-gaming chant; “LA Devotee” is essentially the love letter to everything Angeles-oriented; “Emperor’s New Clothes” and “Golden Days” are decent filler; the title track might be confused for Liberace’s funeral march in all of the best ways; and if “Hallelujah” did not feel so suitably made for fans’ ringtones, its corresponding video would make zero sense.
(Read: An Ultra-Casual Conversation with Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie)
Essentially, Urie turned this record into a score for his theoretical biopic, and that’s more successful than not. Considering his settling down, that means the album won’t have the aggression or grand drama that might suggest. “The Good, the Bad and the Dirty” is probably the only truly confrontational song on Death, and it feels so sarcastic that you would swear P!ATD had spent their time in the tour bus re-reading Palahniuk novels.
The biggest drawbacks to Death Of A Bachelor are exemplified by two distinctive tracks: “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” and “Crazy=Genius”. The former lazily squashes together a sample of the B-52s’ “Rock Lobster” with lackluster lyrics (“Who are these people/ I just woke up in my underwear”) out of tune with their surroundings. Its a campy throwaway likely held onto for sentimental reasons. “Crazy=Genius”, meanwhile, is squarely aimed at the nostalgia center of the fan-base. Sadly, that only serves to remind of how many days have gone by and stand in the way of any musical progress.
That said, those looking to relive the Panic! glory days will find some loud, fun times with Death Of A Bachelor. Even the final tracks hold some charm, once you break through the pseudo-glam veneer. The artwork is a serious hint: Death may be messy, but it’s not necessarily the end, just another explosive event. Urie’s latest paints a vivid portrait about what the Land of Sunshine can do to a man who refused to slam the goddamned door, instead proclaiming, “It’s better now. I’m in a good place.”
Essential Tracks: “Victorious”, “Death of a Bachelor”, and “The Good, the Bad and the Dirty”