Release Date: Jan 15, 2016
Record label: Fueled by Ramen Records
As attention grabbing as a flashing neon sign on the Las Vegas strip, Panic! At the Disco's fifth studio album, 2016's Death of a Bachelor, is a volcano-sized martini glass of emotive, theatrical, genre-bending pop. The first album recorded by the band since the departure of drummer Spencer Smith, who officially left in 2015, Death of a Bachelor is largely the vision of lead vocalist and founding member Brendon Urie. Inspired by Urie's 2013 marriage, as well as legendary vocalist Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday in 2015, Death of a Bachelor works as a loose concept album celebrating the end of Urie's party-hearty single life, and his creative maturation from emo-pop poster boy to self-styled rock sophisticate.
With each and every album that Brendon Urie releases as Panic! At The Disco, he seems to grow bolder and more unhinged. While the band’s previous effort still pushed against the boundaries of pop rock, ‘Death of a Bachelor’ just seems to charge headfirst through them with an utter disregard for the consequences. The results are brilliant. The first album that he’s truly worked on completely on his own – previous record ‘Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!’ still saw him collaborating with drummer Spencer Smith – it’s quite clear from the off that the shackles are off: this is his baby.
Spoiler: it's great. Remember the 2013 Baz Luhrmann movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby? You know the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio introduces himself as the smirking master of ceremonies, oozing charm and charisma? That’s pretty much Brendon Urie on ‘Death Of A Bachelor’. Listen closely and you can almost hear clinking Martini glasses, old sport.A solo album in all but name, Panic! At The Disco’s fifth full-length sees the Vegas native step into the spotlight proper for the first time.
“She said, ‘You’re just like Mike Love / But you’ll never be Brian Wilson, Brian Wilson. ’” So sings Brendon Urie, now the sole permanent member of Panic! At the Disco, on the track “Crazy=Genius”, the centerpiece of the band’s fifth album, Death of a Bachelor. The song, a noirish back-and-forth with a vague femme fatale (“Darlin’ you know / How the wine plays tricks on my tongue”), is something of a manifesto for Urie.
Since exploding into the public’s consciousness in a blaze of glitz and guyliner over a decade ago, Panic! At the Disco have been a band in a state of constant mutation. Teenage pinups, psychedelic pop revivalists, electro rockers – the band have donned many hats over the years and it is perhaps this desire to experiment and refusal to stagnate that has seen them survive while so many of their contemporaries were confined to the emo-pop scrap heap. That’s not to say there haven’t been casualties along the way – band members have been dropping like flies with each subsequent album release and the group’s once fervent fan base has also been dwindling with every testing left turn.
Ten years after getting their start as pointy-haired emo-glam show ponies, Panic! at the Disco are now a vehicle for frontman Brendon Urie, who describes their fifth LP as "a mix between Sinatra and Queen." That means a little more glitzy polish and loads of gloppy decadence ("I lost a bet to a guy in a chiffon skirt/But I make these high heels work," Urie sings on the B-52s-sampling "Don't Threaten Me With a Good Time"). And he's deadly serious about the Sinatra- thing – check "Impossible Year," which brazenly imagines Ol' Blue Eyes reborn as a pooched party-goth and pulls it off through sheer force of will. .
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.
Since Panic! at the Disco’s last album, 2013’s Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die, the former emo pin-ups have lost two band members, making this fifth LP a solo set by singer Brendon Urie in all but name. Perhaps he would have benefited from some outside help for, as befits an album Urie has described as a cross between Queen and Frank Sinatra, Death of a Bachelor is hollow and shapeless. Though operatic pop-punk is the dominant sound, here and there Urie affects a Vegas croon (the Radio 2-friendly title track; Impossible Year, in which he dissects an old relationship), indicating a desire to reinvent himself as an edgy Michael Bublé.
About 17 seconds into Panic! at the Disco’s fifth studio album, Brendon Urie is already wailing through an absurdly long, raspy note. But, if you’d forgotten, such is the theatrical flair of a band that found success with face-painted emo in 2005, before veering into 60s-style classic rock and then back again. Death of a Bachelor sees frontman Urie’s powerful voice wielded like a hammer, sometimes inspiring a mild headache – again, see opener Victorious – but elsewhere paying homage to, of all people, Frank Sinatra.
When we last left Brendon Urie, the Panic! At The Disco frontman (and now sole member) was dancing his way through moody, electronic-inspired pop on 2013’s career-reviving Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die, an album largely colored by grayscale soundscapes and muted tones. Things are much more vibrant on Panic!’s fifth studio album, but what hasn’t changed is Urie’s disinterest in repeating himself. Sure, there are lateral steps to the sound he crafted on Too Weird (most notably the destined-for-sports-arenas jock jam “Victorious”), but much of Death Of A Bachelor expertly toes the line between classic and contemporary.
Over a decade since Panic! At The Disco’s emergence, central figure Brendon Urie stands alone as the sole remaining founding member of the group. Now Panic! officially functions as Urie’s nom de plume—which unofficially, it always was. With no one to answer to, Urie, aided by producer and co-songwriter Jake Sinclair (Fall Out Boy, Weezer), lets loose on the fifth Panic! album, Death Of A Bachelor.
When Panic! at the Disco crash-landed into pop a decade ago with the double-platinum “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out,” the Vegas-born band made itself known for its hyperattenuated, well,everything — rapid-fire lyrics delivered with panache by teenage lead singer Brendon Urie, intricately arranged pop tunes that played as “emo” for the “TRL” audiences while churning with Broadway-level theatricality, a tour that worked more like a circus, complete with contortionists and stilt-walkers. Over the years the band has shape-shifted: switching out members, toying with different pop styles, and ditching, then restoring, its appellative exclamation mark. Urie is the only remaining vestige of the “Fever” era, but Panic! at the Disco’s fifth studio album, “Death of a Bachelor,” is propelled by a slightly more mature version of the eyebrow-cocked élan that defined the band’s earliest work.
The new album by Panic! at the Disco is called “Death of a Bachelor,” but its core concern isn’t death so much as the afterlife. Brendon Urie, the band’s emphatic mind and mouthpiece, wants to know what happens in the wake of a bacchanal, when the wildest urges thrash only in the rear view. “Welcome to the end of eras,” he sings on “Emperor’s New Clothes,” sounding rueful as well as relieved: Farewell to all that, but not without a highlight reel.
Panic! at the Disco has gradually turned into the solo project of Brendon Urie and a rotating cast of collaborators. With this shift, the band has also increasingly distanced itself from its pop-punk past. On Death Of A Bachelor, Urie explores his Las Vegas roots by taking direct inspiration from Frank Sinatra as well as sprinkling in some of the hip-hop/pop and EDM sounds currently rocking the casino clubs.