REVIEW: Panic! At The Disco – ‘Death Of A Bachelor’

Panic death of a bach feature

Artist: Panic! At The Disco
Album: Death Of A Bachelor
Genre: Pop, basically Frank Sinatra singing over a Metro Boomin beat
Label: Fueled By Ramen

I’m going to start this review with something of a hot take. Ahem.

The alternative music community—“the scene,” if you will—is not inherently better, cooler, or any more “real” than top 40 pop.

Repeat that sentence out loud a few times; I’m going to go wash my mouth out with soap for saying “the S word” like that.

I feel the need to assert that stance because of something I like to call “punk exceptionalism.” You’ve probably seen punk exceptionalism in practice at your local VFW hall, or in the punk and hardcore section of your local record shop, maybe from a shitty dude with a bad haircut and a denim jacket that ever-so-slightly exposes his Real Talk-era Man Overboard t-shirt.

“Pfft. Panic! At The Disco?” inquires our Shitty Dude as he picks up a Vices & Virtues record, speaking to no one in particular, but loudly enough for you to hear him from the R&B section in the back of the shop. “Fuck this band, dude. Top 40 bullshit. They’ll never top A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out.” Shitty Dude then puts the record back on the shelf, picks up a copy of fun.’s Aim And Ignite, calls Nate Ruess a “fucking sellout” under his breath, and whistles the opening guitar riff from Fall Out Boy’s “Tell That Mick” as he walks out the door.

See, Shitty Dude thinks he’s better than everyone else (read: exceptional) because he remembers listening to that band you liked back when they played smaller venues and sold fewer records. He’s entirely incompatible with legacy acts, and couldn’t care less about Fueled By Ramen’s latest signing because he is a Very Cool Guy.

Enter Panic! At The Disco. Due to their constant switch-ups in sound, member changes, dips and dives in the mainstream consciousness, the dubious nature of their exclamation point, and incredibly successful debut record, Panic! are one of the biggest victims of punk exceptionalism. The band-turned-solo project swept up an enormous fanbase with their 2005 vaudeville-meets-dance debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, only to polarize fans with the release of their (brilliant) Beatles-inspired sophomore record Pretty. Odd. in 2008. With each subsequent release, vocal minorities of the Panic! fanbase have clamored for a return to the Fever sound as Brendon Urie and co. have done their best to match that record’s radio success, leaving Shitty Dudes all over the world to somehow convince themselves that they were special for listening to the band’s massive debut back in 2005.

Despite Panic!’s less-than-ordinary trajectory and legions of fans who believe that the band peaked before the departure of songwriter and guitarist Ryan Ross, Brendon’s continued efforts have culminated in Death Of A Bachelor, the project’s best, most cohesive record that’s sure to put the Shitty Dudes to bed.

Well, it’s cohesive starting with track three, at least. The album opens with the record’s only real stinkers in “Victorious” and “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time,” the former of which sounds like it was written for an eighth grade cheerleading team, while the latter is essentially the diet version of Fall Out Boy’s “Uma Thurman.” With a pointless “Rock Lobster” sample in place of “Uma”‘s Munsters theme, “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time” is nothing short of frustrating; there’s definitely a good song in there somewhere, but lyricism on par with a Macklemore single (“I’ve told you time and time again / I’m not as think as you drunk I am”) and the eyeroll-inducing sample just stop it dead in its tracks. Meanwhile, “Victorious” barely gets a chance to get going before children chanting in the first chorus cements this track as the Panic! song of choice for middle school touch football teams and their big championship game next weekend.

However, there’s flashing lights and excitement just about everywhere else on the record. “L.A. Devotee” probably sounds like what snorting cocaine off a felt poker table in a Las Vegas casino feels like—fast-paced, flashy with a full horn section, short and fleeting enough to warrant immediate replays. The only thing missing is the regret. An unnecessary yet entirely awesome key change toward the tail end of the track ensures that this is the catchiest thing you’ll hear in January. “Crazy=Genius” is the closest thing to a natural progression from the more interesting musical strokes of Fever that Panic! has ever produced, to the point where I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that this song was written around 2006. Immediately reminiscent of tracks like “But It’s Better If You Do” and “There’s A Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought Of It Yet,” “Crazy=Genius” is a simple song wrapped in fun, 1920s-inspired cues and serves as a perfectly adequate structural and thematic centerpiece to the record.

Other high energy tracks like “Emperor’s New Clothes” (which sounds like a Tim Burton film with the music video to match) and “Hallelujah” (which is a much better single than “Victorious”) fill out the track listing and the record’s general soundscape, but the two most interesting songs are the record’s dark horses: the title track and closer, “Impossible Year.” “Death Of A Bachelor” shows Urie crooning Sinatra-style over a lounge song with a trap-influenced beat. Sounds weird on paper, sure, but it’s purely brilliant and shows that Urie has something original and genius to offer Top 40. It’s hard to be sure that any track on this record will see runaway success on pop radio, but the title track would be one hell of an antidote and proves that Urie, if nothing else, has a surefire career singing hooks on hip-hop songs.

Urie’s crooning is reduced to its simplest form for “Impossible Year,” providing the singer’s single most impressive performance to date. It’s an album-closing piano ballad that somehow avoids cliché; rather than seeming like an attempt at showing off his sensitive side before the album ends, “Impossible Year” feels like a proper send-off in the vein of the National Anthem playing as the television turned off before the twenty-four hour news cycle. The lyricism, invoking images of bitter pills, nightmares and general helplessness, contrasts nicely with the rest of the record’s careless attitude toward partying, and suddenly, the record’s strange album artwork shines in a different light. Urie’s burned out, surrounded by the consequences of a night spent out of his mind, seeking sunshine and good times but only able to see through the lens of glamour, drugs and sequined suits.

With a huge fanbase, a history of radio play, and a massive tour with Weezer and Andrew McMahon lined up for the summer, there’s a pretty huge chance that one or two songs from Death of A Bachelor will end up lighting up the airwaves in 2016. That’s a good thing, despite what the Shitty Dudes of the world will tell you. With this record, Brendon Urie has finally proven without a doubt that he doesn’t need Ryan Ross, Beatles nostalgia, or even typical pop radio conventions to write a damn good album. Back to hating on Fall Out Boy, Shitty Dudes.

SCORE: 7.5/10

John Bazley

John Bazley was raised in central New Jersey by the romantic aura of the Asbury Park beachfront, punk rock, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4. He is still trying to figure all of this stuff out.

In addition to UTG, John has contributed to Alternative Press and Full Frequency Media. Follow him on Twitter for pictures of his dog.
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  • In b4 Disqus user “FUCKJOHN” gets mad at me for writing about Panic! At The Disco again.

  • Brian Lion

    FUCKFUCKJOHN