The year is 2006: if you’re not texting your friends on your Motorola Razr, you’re messaging them on MySpace. It was during this time period that angsty, pop-punk music was all the rage. Fall Out Boy was at their peak, Paramore was gearing up to release their album Riot!, and “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” a single from Las Vegas band Panic! At the Disco, topped the charts while subsequently becoming the song of the decade to many.
Flash forward to 2016, and while we’ve exchanged Motorola Razrs and Myspace for Apple iPhones and Instagram, we surprisingly still have new music coming from Panic! At the Disco. Though the days of scene kids have faded, this alternative rock band has managed to stick around, with an ever-changing sound and line-up of members. On the band’s fifth release, Death of a Bachelor, the last remaining member, Brendon Urie, manages to shift the band into brand new territory.
Death of a Bachelor plays out like a very brief glimpse into Urie’s life, lasting a mere 36 minutes. The album opens well on a sharp and defining note with the triumphantly loud “Victorious.” With Urie evoking intensity not seen on the band’s previous releases, the song kicks the album off on full throttle, guided by an elementary-like chant and aggressive guitar riffs.
The album also signifies a major genre shift for the group, as Death of a Bachelor sees Panic! incorporating and mashing-up elements of the hip-hop and rock genres. Songs like the “The Good, the Bad, and the Dirty,” along with the title track, represent this newly established sound, with the latter sounding like a Queen-meets-Beyoncé hybrid. As complex as that sounds, the result makes for one of the best songs on the record.
One of the only positive qualities of this record is the vocals. As the album progresses, it’s clear how much of Urie’s voice was honed in on during the recording process. Songs like “Impossible Year” and album highlight “Hallelujah” bring Urie’s pure and powerful vocals to the forefront.
However, the vocals can only do so much. Death of a Bachelor’s main fault is its lack of originality. At times, the album almost plays out as if it’s by a Fall Out Boy tribute band. And not the 2006-era Fall Out Boy, but the current incarnation that believes sampling The Munsters theme song is a great decision (see their 2015 single “Uma Thurman”). Here, we see that Panic! somehow thought it’d be a great idea to sample The B-52’s cult hit “Rock Lobster” on the embarrassingly bad “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time.” The song is a noisy, formulaic number that almost makes the listener want to immediately switch over to any of the band’s earlier and more interesting releases, like 2008’s Pretty. Odd. Death of a Bachelor has many missteps, with songs like the aforementioned “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” and “Crazy = Genius” both showing a lack of lyrical growth and maturity that should be expected with the release of a fifth album.
While Death of a Bachelor has a few exciting moments, it’s clear that this is more of a Brendon Urie solo project than a continuation of Panic! At the Disco. The quick-witted lyricism and avant-garde productions of albums past aren’t anywhere to be found, instead substituted with clichéd rhymes and a lack of clear originality. Along with MySpace and the Motorola Razr, perhaps Panic! should’ve been left behind in the mid-2000s as well.
2 out of 5 stars.
— Jake Johnson, Music Blogger