panic! at the disco: death of a bachelor review
In music it's not uncommon to have members leave a band for any given reason. Creative differences, personal and internal conflicts...honestly the list is endless. Members get replaced to fill the void. Other members leave and get replaced. It's a never ending cycle, and a frustrating one at that. What happens to a band when there is only one original member left? Do they member embark on a solo career? A new project? Or stay and carry the band's banner forward? Examples include Axl Rose with "Guns N' Roses" (their 2016 "reunion" notwithstanding) and Hayley Williams with "Paramore". A band's name is almost as important as the music itself. The name is often a brand and that sole original member might use the name because of it's notoriety and assurance that whatever they release under the band name would still sell well, even if the people who helped make the band what it is are no longer involved. The results can be good or bad.
Call me a fool but I believe a band's name can mean more than just a name of a collective group of musicians, even when there's only one original member left. In regards to Panic! at the Disco and their sole original member Brendon Urie (lead singer, multi-instrumentalist and king of Vine), when done with the right intentions and talent can result in music that might not be what their fans expect. The end product is 11 songs that are the definition of eclectic and a breath of fresh air from a band that's known for never repeating what they've done before. This end product is Panic!'s fifth studio album "Death of a Bachelor".
"Death of a Bachelor" is Panic! at the Disco's first album to feature Brendon Urie and ONLY Brendon Urie. Original bassist Brent Wilson was let go in 2006 and replaced by Jon Walker only to have the lineup shaken up 3 years later in 2009 when lead guitarist/primary songwriter Ryan Ross and Jon Walker left the group, citing creative differences. In late 2013, drummer Spencer Smith announced a leave of absence to focus on his battle with addiction and officially left the band in 2015. With Urie as the last original member he was faced with a choice: go solo or carry on as Panic! at the Disco? I think you know the answer to that question.
Panic! spent most of 2015 recording "Death of a Bachelor". Brendon Urie recorded EVERY instrument and produced the record himself alongside Jake Sinclair. Urie served as the primary songwriter with the assistance of co-writers among the likes of Rivers Cuomo and album producer Sinclair to name a few. With Urie's impressing instrumentation and signature vocals, we're presented with songs that are polished and catchy. Brendon Urie is running the show and has an ear for what the record should sound like. Every song is unlike the one before it. There is something for everyone on this record ranging to fans of Queen, Beyonce, Frank Sinatra and even swing music. This IS a true Panic! at the Disco album!
From beginning to end, "Death of a Bachelor" refuses to let you settle on just one consistent sound. It plays out like a jukebox that only plays great quality songs. From the album's opener "Victorious" to the rock lobster-esque "Don't Threaten Me with a Good Time" and it's great use of lyricism "I'm not as think as you drunk I am" that flows perfectly with the song. The album's first single "Hallelujah" was first released in April 2015 and still remains to be an outstanding, catchy song. The notes Brendon Urie hits on this song are incredible.
The album's fourth track "Emperor's New Clothes" lyrically and musically are a vast departure from what fans of Panic! at the Disco are accustomed to. I appreciate the song for what it is but it's far from my favorite. The album's title track "Death of a Bachelor" oozes Urie's love for Frank Sinatra (here's my review on said song from a few weeks ago). "Crazy=Genius" has a big-swing band sound that really builds up it's intensity during the chorus. When I listen to this song I picture a giant, lively swing dance where everyone is donned in black. It's different, it's crazy, it's genius. Perfect title for a song if I do say so myself.
"LA Devotee" has grown to be one of my favorites that Panic! has written. From the driving drums and horns to Urie's vocal deliverance about his love for The City of Angels is well executed. It goes without saying but the melody for the chorus is beautiful, especially towards the end when the song elevates to a higher key structure. The notes Brendon Urie can hit never cease to amaze me as music fan and makes me envious as a fellow singer.
Panic! at the Disco takes us from the brightness of "LA Devotee" to the more aggresive-driven "Golden Days". Again Brendon Urie delivers top notch vocals with utter ease. "Golden Days" really showcases Urie's talent and skill with performing each and every instrument himself on not just this song, but the album as a whole. "The Good, The Bad and the Dirty" is a short, but catchy song. At under 3 minutes, the intensity of the song goes up and down without making it painfully obvious. Some might call this a filler, but I don't think so.
The tenth track to "Death of a Bachelor" titled "House of Memories" further proves my statement that each song is really unlike the one before it. Upon my first listen (and many more that followed) I'm impressed with it's musicianship and production but I feel "House of Memories" will grow on me as I listen to it more. The album closes on a beautiful note with "Impossible Year". Remember when I said no two songs sound the same? I take that back for this song to a degree. While it does bare some resemble to "Death of a Bachelor", "Impossible Year" is not "Death of a Bachelor" part two. "Impossible Year" is a piano-driven, string-laced ballad that has an intimate sound that gives the impression he's singing to YOU. The beauty of "Impossible Year" is that Panic! are not trying to sound like Frank Sinatra and that it's possible to pay homage to your hero without intentionally or indirectly sounding like them. I couldn't picture a better way to end this album then with "Impossible Year".
I've been waiting on this album for years and Panic! at the Disco does not disappoint with "Death of a Bachelor". While a song or two may not have grown on me yet, that doesn't take away from the beauty of the album and it's deliverance. Sole member Brendon Urie did an outstanding job performing every instrument as well as being the head writer for every song. Vocally he's never sounded better. While Panic! at the Disco may not be everyone's cup of tea, I believe there really is something for everyone on "Death of a Bachelor". While band members may come and go, great music can still come out of the rubble and even surpass their previous work. "Death of a Bachelor" may go down as one of Panic!'s best albums, but only time can be the judge of that. I recommend you give this album a listen and find a song you'll love because there's one or maybe two that I know will catch your ear. What do you have to lose?