Panic! at the Disco is not the same band you fell in love with as a pop-punk middle schooler. Frontman Brendon Urie is the only remaining member of the band’s official lineup. Thus, Death of a Bachelor, the band’s latest release, is a solo project in all but name.
Left to his own devices, Urie has delved into a new sound that he describes as a mix of Queen and Frank Sinatra. The result falls a little flat, with overly indulgent production and unsuccessfully theatrical pizzazz that fails to captivate. But longtime fans will be pleased to discover nods to the dramatic flair that was present in Panic! At the Disco’s debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. And while Urie might have overdone it, his unashamed celebrations of debauchery will always be entertaining at the least.
Singles “Victorious” and “Hallelujah” are both flashy, catchy, superficial tracks, complete with sing-along pop rock choruses. On “Victorious,” Urie sings triumphantly of “livin’ like a washed up celebrity.” While these are fun anthems for all the sinners out there (as Urie sees himself), they’re instantly forgettable.
Similarly, “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” unabashedly salutes hedonism as Urie recalls a wild night out, complete with “champagne, cocaine, gasoline / And most things in between.” Like the Las Vegas native he is, Urie certainly doesn’t shy away from the vices of mankind. And if that wasn’t clear enough already, the music video for “Emperor’s New Clothes” features Brendon Urie literally descending into the depths of Hell and transforming into Satan. No joke.
While attempts to emulate Queen-style bridges fall short of Freddie Mercury’s dazzling prowess, Urie does shine in his Frank Sinatra impression on title track “Death of a Bachelor.” Urie’s velvety croon and swelling saxophones meet stuttering beats and electronic flourishes to move the smoky Sinatra vibe into the present day. “Death of a Bachelor” really steps back and lets Urie’s voice do the talking, which is a blessing — his vocal talent is undeniable.
“LA Devotee” is the only other hidden gem on the album. With vivid imagery celebrating unapologetic materialism under the Hollywood lights, Urie delivers a catchy tribute to L.A.. Evocative lyrics such as “Swimming pools under desert skies / Drinking white wine in the blushing light” mesh flawlessly with an energetic pop rock hook.
Less impressive are the final four tracks on Death of a Bachelor. Overproduced, hollow and disjointed, they fail to achieve the punchiness of some of the album’s earlier songs. While as a whole, Panic! At the Disco’s latest album comes nowhere close to living up to the legacy of its previous work, a handful of tracks succeed in doing something new and noteworthy. The band may barely resemble the emo love affair of your early teens, but it’s still worth a shot.
Madeline Wells covers music. Contact her at [email protected].