“Welcome to the end of eras,” sings Brendan Urie at the start of Emperor’s New Clothes, the fourth song on Panic! At The Disco’s fifth full length Death Of A Bachelor. A little bit later he chimes in on the chorus “I’m taking back the crown” and it’s hard not to think that both of these statements encapsulate the album as a whole. The former is represented by the fact that Death Of A Bachelor essentially marks the end of Panic! At The Disco as a band, instead becoming the creative sobriquet of Urie, who played every instrument when recording the album. The second carries a lot more weight, and becomes especially telling when actually listening to the album – Death Of A Bachelor is undoubtedly Panic! At The Disco’s best album since their 2005 debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out.
Death Of A Bachelor is what A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out would sound like if it grew up. There’s still the wide-eyed enthusiasm and unbridled genre-splicing, but it feels more reigned in this time, more suave and sophisticated. The louche Sinatra-goes-trap of the title track may be the most extreme example (and the album’s only real low point), but it’s an album peppered with the the feeling of growing up not entirely gracefully. Take Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time, acting the natural coda to the Vegas-based hedonism of Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!, hungover and lurching with its B-52’s sample in tow.
The rest of the album chronicles the events of the party and the morning after, each song with the same gaudy brilliance. The cheerleader chants of Victorious and squalling horns coupled with shuffling drumbeats on LA Devotee both revel in their overt flamboyance, while Crazy=Genius feels like a genuine attempt at penning a show tune, coupling an unavoidable pop core with swinging horns pulled straight from Friend Like Me from the Aladdin soundtrack. It’s easy to see why Death Of A Bachelor is so profoundly and consistently strong, in that it rectifies the criticisms made about Panic!’s previous two albums. The omnipresent horns give a much more organic feel than the synthpop-leaning Too Weird To Live…, while its upbeat demeanor is a far more attractive prospect than the twinkling baroque of Vices & Virtues.
The main reason why Death Of A Bachelor is likely to appeal to the majority of Panic!’s fanbase though, is because it could’ve been written by the same band who recorded that debut over a decade ago. There are definite similarities in the soulfully refined debonair of Hallelujah and the rip-roaring anthemia of Golden Days to that antsy, excitable debut, not so much in the ever-broadening scope of influence but in its intention. That’s why it’s easy to admire the likes of the title track and closer Impossible Year, even though they both represent a relative dip in quality – it’s an album that intends to flood the alternative market with non-alternative reference points, and it’s the tightest constructed example of that that they’ve managed to achieve in a decade.
With Urie now having complete control, the whole thing screams vanity project now, but in the best possible way. It’s a seamless fusion of vintage and modern that he’s crafted, with his vocals that ooze charisma being the icing on an already delicious cake. Even with it being as polished as it is, Urie still has one of the best voices in alternative music, barely putting a foot wrong throughout, even with the exploration of his lower range in the likes of The Good, The Bad And The Dirty and Impossible Year.
Overall, it feels as though Death Of A Bachelor is the start of an exciting new phase in the career of Panic! At The Disco. Even in its lead up it feels like the first time in a long time that people have really been excited for new music, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s the Panic! At The Disco that both the fans want, and that Brendon Urie wants – fun-loving, slightly hedonistic but ultimately loveable all the same. Urie’s status as the titular bachelor may have recently come to an end, but for Panic! At The Disco, the party’s only just getting started.
For fans of: Fall Out Boy, Cobra Starship, Marianas Trench
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Death Of A Bachelor’ is out now on Fueled By Ramen / DCD2 Records.