Sometimes sunny, sometimes angsty, but always loud and manic, Panic! At the Disco is nothing if not youthful at its core. But their fifth studio album, Death of a Bachelor (), shows us a band that has grown up, and now wants a sound to reflect that new maturity. Lead singer (and only remaining original member) Brendon Urie was only 18 when the band debuted in 2005. Still, to anyone who happened to be an angry teen in the mid-2000s, this newest release will sound very familiar. It may bring in pianos, electronica, and some high production values, but its chaotic energy and Urie’s ecstatic, half-shouted vocals still make its sound recognizably Panic!.
After a predictably fun and chaotic start, the album peaks with the fifth and sixth tracks, “Death of a Bachelor” and “Crazy = Genius.” Here, Urie displays his versatility by ditching his trademark vocals for something right out of the swing era, channelling Frank Sinatra. These two tracks are where the blending of different styles works best, and produces something unique and memorable. Sadly, it’s not to last, as the next track “LA Devotee” switches abruptly back into Top 40-ready pop-punk. From there, the last few songs bleed into each other without much variety.
Fortunately, the album ends on another high note. “Impossible Year” plays us out with more of Urie’s crooning, and lyrics that once again evoke swing: “There’s no sunshine/This impossible year/Only black days and skies grey/And clouds full of fear.” Ten years on, Urie seems to be nothing if not nostalgic.
Unlike Panic!’s 2008 psych-pop experiment Pretty. Odd., this reinvention feels much more timid. The effort is there, and briefly pays off in the middle of the album. But it doesn’t carry through. What sets Death of a Bachelor apart is its mixing of slower, jazzy elements with the more pop-punk sound they originally made a name for themselves with, with some polished electronic sounds just for variety. This blending of elements is somewhat interesting, but it is far from seamless, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a goal in mind. In the end, the album is at its best when it slows down, relaxes, and lets Urie’s distinct and versatile voice take the spotlight.
Long-time Panic! fans might find a lot to like about Death of a Bachelor, but anyone coming to this album hoping for something new is going to finish it slightly disappointed.
Death of a Bachelor is available at Amazon.com and on most popular streaming sites.
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