Music Review: “Death of a Bachelor” Not Death of “Panic!”
I don’t know if any of you are Android users – as iPhone sales go up, Android users seem to be the minority — but if you are, you know that Google does this thing where it keeps track of whatever you’ve searched for and provides suggestions based on your search history. (The iPhone probably does something similar.) This is the era we live in; you can’t search for a recipe for Korma curry without being cursed with suggestions for Korma recipes for the next thousand years.
So, as I’m doing my morning routine of procrastinating on being awake, scrolling through social media and all that jazz, I come across a review for Panic! At the Disco’s newest album, “Death of a Bachelor.”
The title of the review was, simply, “(Panic! At the) Disco Sucks.”
My gut reaction surprised me, as if the concept of Panic! being hated was so foreign to me. (I’ve read the criticism that surfaced in the “Pretty. Odd.” Days; I know it’s out there.) So I’m not entirely sure why my first reaction was to laugh and go, “Well, that’s obviously a sarcastic title.”
Because it wasn’t.
I was surprised by how startled I was to learn that the article’s title was not an attempt at humor. Now, I’m no stranger to differing opinions. I guess — and perhaps this is sacrilege — the article surprised me as much as when I first heard my friend say, “Actually, I hate the Beatles.”
Now, Panic! are by no means on the same level as the Beatles, don’t get me wrong. But the content of the article, written by Chris DeVille for “Stereogum,” was so anti-Panic! that I began to investigate and see if it was a parody website – some part of me was wondering, “Is this The Onion? It has to be.”
I’m still kind of ashamed that I was having such a hard time accepting that someone actually listened to and hated “Death of a Bachelor.”
If I had read this review for “Too Weird To Live, Too Rare to Die,” I might have had an easier time accepting it. But “Death of a Bachelor?”
Isn’t this the age where the masses are so in love with “The Great Gatsby”-era aesthetics? Hasn’t this new obsession for flappers and speakeasies surfaced?
The title track of “Death of a Bachelor” should be placed into the band’s video for “But It’s Better If You Do,” because that’s the era it’s nodding to. Or, even, (and I haven’t seen the most recent “Gatsby” movie, but I’ve heard that one of the big criticisms is that the film uses modern music in a 1920s setting) “Impossible Year,” the last track on the album, could probably fit into the movie.
Frontman Brendon Urie’s voice alone has caused such an uproar in the music industry (again, perhaps some more sacrilege, but he’s been accused of having Sinatra undertones, and the title track definitely exhibits those), that it should be no surprise to me that there are those vehemently against the band’s (not new) success.
I’m not going to lie, the album is by no means the band’s best. I’m more of a “Vices & Virtues” or “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out” kind of Panic! fan, but it’s definitely a step back in the right direction after the semi-disappointment that was “Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die,” of which I could stand to listen to only four tracks. Still, DeVille’s opening line of the article, “Pray for America,” seems an excessive hatred. But I’ll be honest, DeVille’s humor does make the article worth reading, if you’re considering it. I laughed enough that I couldn’t find it in me to be seriously offended, just genuinely perplexed.
Regardless, “Death of a Bachelor” is a fantastic album, considering the struggles that Panic! has gone through with members and stylistic choices. From changing bassists from Brent Wilson to Jon Walker in 2006, and then losing Walker and lyricist/guitarist Ryan Ross in 2009 (that broke my heart, 7 years later the wound is still fresh) and then more recently, my personal favorite ex-member of Panic!, Spencer Smith, split with Urie and what was left of the band in 2015.
When I was 12 years old, if you told me this is where Panic! would be now, I would have called you a filthy liar. Probably, I would have prayed to the Muses that Panic! would remain Brendon, Spencer, Ryan and Jon.
Unfortunately, the Muses are outdated and there’s about 25% of the band that I once knew and loved left. To me, “Death of a Bachelor” is more “Brendon Urie’s newest album” than “Panic! At the Disco’s newest album,” but it’s definitely worth listening to. There are party tracks, and there are mellow tracks (“Impossible Year” is my personal favorite). It’s the perfect mix of uppers and downers.
The opening track, “Victorious,” is the one that made me hesitant of listening to the entire album. Like DeVille pointed out about the album’s tracks, this one seems like it’s trying too hard to be a classic “party track,” and I’m surprised that, so far, it seems to be second to “Hallelujah” in popularity. Anyone else catch it at the start of this year’s Super Bowl?
“Hallelujah,” however, is what redeemed the album for me. When the two singles were released (first “Victorious” then “Hallelujah”), “Hallelujah” had been one of my current favorite songs.
Now, some of the other tracks seem to be following the same “Victorious” vibe – trying super-hard to be party tracks, perhaps in the effort to make it on the radio, which is understandable, but I think Panic! is forgetting that they don’t need any help actually getting on the radio. If the days of “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies” has taught them nothing else, it should at least teach them that, once “Nine in the Afternoon” made it big, they were not merely a One-Hit Wonder.
“Golden Days,” “LA Devotee,” “Crazy=Genius,” and “Impossible Year” have made it onto my main Spotify playlist. (The one we have which plays on repeat for hours? Yeah, that one.) Those tracks are the album’s highlights for me. Since Ryan Ross parted ways with Panic!, I had always been wary of how the lyrics were going to pan out – he was their main lyricist, after all. But “Vices & Virtues” and, now, “Death of a Bachelor,” have shown that Urie is making it along just fine.
All-in-all, “Death of a Bachelor” is a Panic! album that I would rank at a solid number 3 of their 5 albums. If you’re thinking of checking out this album, I recommend “Impossible Year” first, which is the album’s exemplar track for Urie’s vocal talent.
And hey, if you like it, catch Panic! At the Disco on this year’s “Fuzz Fest” at the Toyota Pavilion in Scranton. Maybe I’ll see you there.