And then there was one. It’s been ten years since four young, yet incredibly talented Las Vegan’s blew the world away and put their label, Fueled By Ramen, on the map with their first studio album: A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. On this album, Panic! At the Disco introduced us to the blend of Broadway level theatricality and somewhat Blink-182-esque post-punk rock and roll that the world had never seen. Drummer, Spencer Smith, strung together one refreshingly simple, aggressively fast rhythm after another. Guitarist, Ryan Ross, and Bassist, Jon Walker, had a palpable chemistry that flowed well to create an undeniably remarkable instrumental score. The score flees to the background, however, as Brendon Urie’s soaring vocals rush a listener back to the last time they were young and defiant. His voice is one that captures you from the first sound he makes, theatrical and enticing.
As the Band followed up with their second studio creation, Pretty. Odd., they completely redefined their sound, which would prove to be Panic!’s standard procedure. Each album stretched their styles to new and uncharted lands, but listeners always followed happily, enjoying the common thread of Urie’s emotionally charged vocals.
The Year 2011 saw the departure of Ross and Walker from the band. With half of Panic! gone, the world could only thank the young rockers for the two albums they’d given us and move on. But the Urie and Smith weren’t done yet. With their third release: Vices & Virtues, they charged on with only half of the original crew and gave us a truly inventive album. So when 2015 began with Spencer Smith’s announcement that he would be leaving the band as well, fewer people were surprised to see the year end with the release of another single from the band, this time with all writing, instrumentation and, of course, vocals, done by Brendon Urie. The singer went on to begin 2016 with the release of Panic!’s fifth project, entitled Death Of A Bachelor.
According to Urie, DOAB is somewhat of a tribute to the man he used to be, before his 2015 marriage. The album itself, however, plays less like a tribute and more like a funeral.
He opens with “Victorious,” a fast-paced pre game of sorts, declaring, with intentional naivety, the age old “tonight’s the night message” but this time with the interesting spin of a man looking back. Though Urie writes in the present tense, you can feel his reminiscence.
“Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time”, the last single before the album’s release, and “Hallelujah”, the album’s first official single, follow this opener, using lines like “If you go on, you might pass out in a drain pipe. Don’t threaten me with a good time!” and “My life started the day I got caught, under the covers with second hand lovers” to display the tone of the majority of this album to be that of reviling in one’s bad decisions. Urie uses the bulk of his time being entertained by his poor decision-making with the childlike glee of a baby smearing his first birthday cake all over his face or a young boy who jumps in a mud puddle in his new shoes. This enjoyment is a bit of a throwback to the delightfully immature defiance of Fever.
“Emperor’s New Clothes” steer’s heavily into the skid of theatricality and is the first to even vaguely hint at the recent departure of Smith, who was the original creator of P!ATD, with the line “Dynasty decapitated, you just might see a ghost tonight.” From here, Urie allows himself a slight venture into the true nature of his feelings toward growing up.
His descent into his real feelings begins with what is, in my own opinion, by far the best track on the album, after which the album is named. During an interview, the singer/songwriter said that he was aiming to blend the sounds of legendary artists like Queen and Sinatra when he created this track. Urie has always been an outspoken fan of Freddy Mercury (the band did a very popular cover of Bohemian Rhapsody) but his mention of Ole Blue Eyes is a bit out of character. However, the accomplished writer blends the two styles masterfully, while putting his own twist on it. All told, this album delights in keeping you on your toes. Around every corner, Urie packs a delightful punch to the gut. Just when you think you know what to expect, along comes a song like Crazy=Genius or Hallelujah to turn you upside down. However, for all the positive points featured on the LP, there are a few negatives.
My main criticism of the album is based on it’s lyrical substance, or lack there of. A good portion of my teen years, like many of my peers, has been sound tracked by P!ATD, so when Brendon Urie announced the concept of this album, a eulogy to his younger “bachelor” self, I was excited. One of the most skilled songwriters of my generation was poised to release his newest work and tackle the issue that I, and many Panic! Fans were finding to be heavy on their minds: growing up. Not to mention that with Urie’s recent marriage and the departure of the final original piece of his high school band, he had plenty of growing up to comment on. Sadly, aside from a few savored moments, Urie cops out. He spends his first three songs enjoying his poor lifestyle choices with similar lyrics in “Victorious”, “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time”, and “Hallelujah”. He later revisits this topic again on “LA Devotee” and “The Good, The Bad, and The Dirty.” Though each of these songs are well written, they essentially repeat themselves and cover a fairly shallow topic that could be efficiently explained with one song (preferably “Hallelujah”). “House of Memories” is the singer/songwriter’s cheesiest attempt at tackling the big issue of entering adulthood. Lines like “Baby, we built this house on memories” and “Promise me a place in your house of memories” offer the same insights that could be found on the Twitter accounts of any high school age girl. When Brendon says “Those thoughts of past lovers, they’ll always haunt me” in the bridge, the listener is left to wonder why he would randomly add in an old love story, a solid two thirds into the piece. Reading the lyrics aloud, one may wonder if Urie realizes that you can miss something other than an ex. “Crazy=Genius” and “Emperor’s New Clothes” also deal with similar issues of Brendon proclaiming his ability to effectively lead P!ATD in the right direction on his own, though Crazy speaks more to an old lover who doubted his abilities, saying “You’re just like Mike, love, but you’ll never be Brian Wilson!” while Clothes aims more to tell the fans that he is attempting to reclaim Panic!’s old prowess, wailing “I’m taking back the crown!”
Overall, the album is good. It’s not the best of Panic!’s work (which I believe is still their debut: A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out) or the worst (2013’s Too Weird to Live! Too Rare To Die!) It falls somewhere in the middle. Songs like “Hallelujah”, “Death of A Bachelor”, “Crazy=Genius”, and “Impossible Year”, are inarguable masterpieces, and should be respected as such. The chaotic and unpredictable nature of the project perfectly conveys how it feels to be inside an intensely creative mind with nothing limiting it. For the first time, Urie is let completely out of his cage and unleashed on the world and what he gave us was beautiful, though just a bit too tame. This piece may be a eulogy to the younger versions of us, but it seldom succeeds in making you cry for your loss, as it isn’t raw enough. However, Urie succeeds in solidifying the unspoken motto that has been at the heart of Panic!’s music for years: “All you sinners stand up and sing ‘Hallelujah!’”