Panic! At the Disco | Death of a Bachelor (DCD2/Fueled By Ramen)

Brandon Urie is one of our generation’s musical geniuses: He’s got such reach, such insight, such innovation.

panic

The first time I listened to this album, I didn’t get it. The second time, it made more sense. And then I took Death of a Bachelor to my car and, while I get it now, I don’t like it as much as I thought I would.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Brandon Urie is one of our generation’s musical geniuses. He’s got such reach, such insight, such innovation; one listen to Panic! At the Disco’s debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out and that’s more than obvious. Since then (and overlooking the, ahem, not so good second album), he and his Panic! have released two near-perfect albums, Vices and Virtues and Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die. They’ve toured all over, always delivering a show that’s as unexpected as it is entertaining. Last summer, they teased us with “Hallelujah,” the first single from this album, and followed that with “Victorious” just before 2015 wrapped. Really whet our whistles, right?

You’ve probably heard the two aforementioned singles (if not, here and here you go), so I’ll tackle the rest of the tracks. Coming in second, sandwiched between these two, is “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time,” and, well, it’s awesome. Even with the bass line taken straight from the B-52’s “Private Idaho.” It’s tongue-and-cheek and funny, basically telling us, “So, yeah, I’ve reached that point where I get invited to parties with beautiful girls and blow, and yeah, I’ve partaken, but I didn’t like it. Well, I didn’t like all of it. At least not all the time.” The group vocals on this one recall Queen, and it’s no surprise, given that Urie’s a self-professed fanatic. (Last year’s tour featured his glorious take on “Bohemian Rhapsody”—and not to boast, but here in Denver, we got it first.)

Track four, “Emperor’s New Clothes,” draws a bit on Queen, too. And The Wizard of Oz. But that’s not a knock; it works. And with a title like “Emperor’s New Clothes,” it’s not unthinkable to echo another piece of classic literature, right? Also good offerings are “Crazy=Genius,” “LA Devotee,” “House of Memories,” and “Golden Days.” “Crazy=Genius” finds Urie making fun of himself, relating an unnamed outsider telling him, “You’re just like Mike Love, but you want to be Brian Wilson/ You’re just like Mike Love, but you’ll never be Dennis Wilson.” The horns kind of take over the song, especially toward the end, where the rapidfire rhythm takes on something of a classic bent.

“LA Devotee” is also catchy, pure Panic! pop, but a theme is starting to emerge: There’s a difference between the rich and famous and the rest of us. Kind of a depressing thought, when you realize you’re part of “the rest of us,” but hey—the high energy and soaring vocals take you over and it’s all good. You can take “Golden Days” in one of two ways: back when times were good, or those times when the setting summer sun painted our faces gold. Despite the illusion of warm rays on your cheeks, the mundane refrain makes it sound as if Urie ran out of things to say.

Similarly, it’s not like “The Good the Bad and the Dirty” is a bad song, but it’s yet another repetitious refrain for us to sing. Know the title? Can you repeat it? Good; you can sing along! Again, Panic! is Panic! and I like (mostly love) it all, but at this point, it’s starting to sound the same. It’s Urie’s beautiful, rich, flexible voice, some interesting music, and words we’ve heard too many times before. What happened to “Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off” and “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” on which “refrain” was a dirty word and the songs were pure storytelling genius?

“Death of a Bachelor” and “Impossible Year” are where this album veers off the tracks. The first thought I found myself having was that, when his career with Panic! is over, Urie will never want for a job. He can go to Las Vegas and sing literally anything. He’s got the voice, he’s got the musical depth, he’s got the ability to glide between styles like a slippery chameleon. And then it hit me. He’s kind of doing that here. The title track is like a sprawling, fawning Big Band song he’s tried to repackage for today’s listener. But you know what? I don’t want to hear Big Band. I never liked it, I’ve never been to Vegas, and I’m not ready to listen to old-people music.

If you’re a Panic! At the Disco fan and you disagree with me—if you love “Bachelor” and “Impossible Year”—I’d love to hear from you. Maybe I’m just missing something. But right now, as I write this, as I listen to these songs again, I’m pretty sure they’re not for me. And that they don’t belong on this album—or any Panic! album, at least not anytime soon. B- | Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 466 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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