Panic! At The Disco… where do I begin…... Well, let me start with this one, they are a band who when they first appeared in 2005 with ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat out’ grabbed my attention with a sharp set of lyrics, clever riffs, catchy songs and an attitude that was sort of refreshing. They were a second wave emo band at best, nothing that would ever make as much depth as someone like Frank Zappa or Nick Cave, but for what they did they were very entertaining. Then came their second album called ‘Pretty. Odd’ and they released their Beatles dream record and it sort of started to fizzle out if I am honest. Since then, there has been another two albums and all the original members apart from lead singer/multi-instrument playing man Brendon Urie. So now he is sort of like Billy Corgan with The Smashing Pumpkins and hiring people as he needs to; it is fair enough in some ways and it certainly worked for Mr Corgan as The Smashing Pumpkins have gone from strength to strength in my eyes. But something is different in the water here, the album is popular, but a lot of the reviews I have picked up have been less than complimentary. So it is our turn to find out if the reviews or the general public or correct….
“Victorious” starts with a cheerleader chorus, big hooks and sounds as slick as anything else you will hear in the charts. It is a song about victory, the glory and the fame and it also sounds like it will be used in nightclubs around the world (it could fit in alternative, rock and dance clubs). It is almost metrosexual in nature and does not belong to one group, but it is also empty and it does not have the rich textures of ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’ (or even ‘Pretty. Odd’) when they were aping the Beatles for all it was worth; this could be a short review if this is a sign of thing to come. “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time” comes out in the same way that “Pump It” did for the Black-Eyed Peas, it uses a sample riff as the major hook, the story is one of debauchery and little regret in this shallow tune, the major section of the song is so far away from their roots that there is very little about the band that I recognise here apart from the vocals. The sound of a drug party gone wild is not new, not clear and a bit dick-ish, next. “Hallelujah” is the next song and this is the beginning of a series of changes that go through this record, it comes across as a strange mixture of Southern American Gospel, Motown intro and bland middle of the road X-Factor victory song. What is even more sad is that it is one of the better songs on the album as well, but to be honest that is not too hard (sorry, spoiler alert should have been added there). Thankfully it is a slower number that the previous two, but the lyrics are sub-standard compared to other examples that the band have come up with in the past; this is truly becoming frustrating here.
“Emperor’s New Clothes” is another step towards the charts once again and could have easily been Iggy Azalea, Lorde (both of who I would hope would turn this down) or Rhianna. There is nothing here which showcases their originality, cleverness or talent. It is performed well, but it is another one that leaves as much impression as a snowflake does on a flame. “Death of a Bachelor” sees the band try to become a Frank Sinatra type song with a modern set of electronics and fucking stupid hi-hat action which ruins what could have been an interesting song. The words are some of the most interesting on the album, a set of lyrics about reflection, regret and forward looking; but the addition of extra layers take all the good work and ruin it – it is as if they did not know when to stop and that just shows that they are probably no longer in control of their own destiny. “Crazy=Genius” is a big band, New Orleans deep fried song that does two things – One, it accidently makes your interest in this album peak as it is a throwback to their original interesting self with a fantastic chorus, great music and a brilliant set of lyrics – Two, those lyrics are slightly self-damning in a way that I think the band were trying to make fun of, but whoever told them that they wish they were wanting to be Brian Wilson (of The Beach Boys and certified genius) and they are nowhere near that league these days. The song is a shining light of what they band can do, but it is very lonely on this album as it is surrounded by what they should not be doing. “LA Devotee” follows on and it is back in that dull, boring and generic template that maps out the band on this album, it could have been done by anyone, might have also been done better and this 80’s influences ode to LA is instantly forgettable once it is finished.
“Golden Days” is another song which sounds sort of like their old selves once more, but not quite themselves in the same breath. It is a song about finding photos of the past and remembering a story about a party and the chaos that followed. It is one of the few tracks on the album that can actually be called an alternative rock song as the guitar is actually being used on this song, the vocals are a high light here (as they tend to be throughout the record); but it is another small island of comfort in a shallow sea of glitter and fame hunting. “The Good, The Bad & The Dirty” is next and you are back to a tale of lost lust (it is not love), fighting and it is all wrapped around a catchy hook and has very little substance. There is some telling parts of the lyrics, like when he is taking about trading people he loved for people he hated, I can imagine that he has done that and it has stuck in his mind. But the song itself is one that once again could have been done by anyone, should have been done by someone else or in the name of the singer by himself – thankfully it is mercifully short. The penultimate song is called “House of Memories” and it is a big club anthem disguised under the pretence of being on an album that is being billed as alternative rock and hip-hop (no, but no). It has deep electronics, building pulses of sound and strange words that cannot gloss over the fact that this is song is dully average at best, very annoying at its worst. Ending this album is the crooner fantasy called “Impossible Year” which showcases that Brendon Urie really wants to be known as a singer in places as he gives his best Sinatra and delivers one of the better moments of the album, if the man could give up the party and go for something like this it would be more interesting than the best part of this record that has been released. It has a depth that other songs on this album lack, it has a sound that could be a future endeavour for him; at the moment, it feels like an apology for the rest of this album and it ends the record on an undeserving high note.
I think it is safe to say that this is not an album for me and I am not the target audience (something I am totally fine with), I understand that bands change and evolve – it is something that should happen unless you are AC/DC or a cover band – but these cats have turned into chart chases who make unit shifters instead of heart movers and that is something that I am not interested in and is slightly disappointing. The fact that it shifts through styles in the same way that a drag act goes through clothes in a stage show just amplifies that this band no longer have an identity and that is very sad. It is well produced but this does not make an album alone, thankfully the songs do not stay around long enough for you to notice how dull they truly are; I really hate to say this but it is a lost, shallow and soulless record and that just makes me sad as they were one of the few interesting lights in the second wave emo scene. In the last few days they have reached number one in the American billboard 200, number 4 in the UK top 40 and the album has done well all over the world; by that measuring stick it is a success, but is success worth it when you lose what you used to be and become a glory chasing act who should have dropped the name and became a solo act? All the marks are for the fact that Brendon Urie still has a good voice, but this could also be pro-tooled these days, I wish they would change their name as they are no Smashing Pumpkins.
2 out of ten – If only there was some quality control
Top song – Crazy=Genius
You can purchase Death of a Bachelor on Amazon here
You can visit the Panic! At The Disco website here
You can follow the activities of Panic! At The Disco on Facebook here
You can stream Death of a Bachelor on Spotify here
You can stream Death of a Bachelor on Tidal here
You can stream Death of a Bachelor on Deezer here