Released: Jan 15, 2016
Genre: Pop Rock, Power Pop, Electropop
Label: Fueled by Ramen
Number Of Tracks: 11
Brendon Urie's influences reach far and wide on Panic! At The Disco's "Death of a Bachelor," but only manage to come off as insipid rather than eclectic.
Death Of A BachelorFeatured review by: UG Team, on january 21, 2016 1 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: It's easy to argue that Panic! At The Disco's initial, quick rise to fame was all because frontman Brendon Urie was a shoe-in for a Patrick Stump wannabe - hell, Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz was the one who signed PATD in the first place to release their emo punk debut, 2005's "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out," likely because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But despite that simple fast-lane to popularity, PATD sought to shake things up rather than toe the line, and threw a massive, arguably jarring curveball with their follow-up album, 2008's "Pretty. Odd.," which took inspiration from vintage rock acts with its power pop/baroque pop style. Though their third album, 2011's "Vices & Virtues," wasn't much of a significant style change as it was trying to reconfigure PATD's baroque characteristics to a pop rock backbone, it acted as the mark for PATD being Urie's ship to steer wherever he desired after lead guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker left the band. That desire would later take form in a strong '80s new wave/synthpop influence in PATD's fourth album, 2013's "Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!"
In the past year, PATD also lost founding drummer Spencer Smith, making Urie the only member operating the band at this point. With even more control at PATD's helm, the band's fifth album, "Death of a Bachelor," puts itself forward as being the most eclectic and varied album in their catalog thus far. Instead of aiming for one main sonic theme throughout the album like "Pretty. Odd." and "Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!," Urie stuffs as many of his musical aspirations as he can into the album without discrimination or discernment. Among the recurring backbone of glitzy-produced, manic singalong pop rock (like the encumbered, made-for-spinning-class-soundtracks opener "Victorious," and the Weezer-like chord slogging of "Golden Days"), Urie goes from co-opting gospel in the uninspired "Hallelujah," attempting an old-meets-new fusion of Motown soul and contemporary trap in the eponymous song, crafting a big band pastiche in "Crazy=Genius," outfits horn sections in a quasi-ska fashion in "LA Devotee" (a refreshing variance to the expected baroque pop style PATD have leaned towards with their horn usage), and closes the album with a classic crooning number of "Impossible Year" (one of Urie's best vocal performances by far).
The genre gallivanting in "Death of a Bachelor" is generally expected from PATD at this point, but there are two glaring vices in the album's grand scheme. First is the realization that despite the colorful mix of genre attempts, the songwriting is as tame and by-the-book as can be. The album's extraneous effort to emulate old ideas (rather than innovate or reimagine) is supposed to be the praise-worthy end in itself, which, by many examples, is the new norm of pop music. One can point to the neo-retro pop likes of Sam Smith or Meghan Trainor, but for the sake of comparing within the same world, it's the same kind of mentality Fall Out Boy employed in their most recent album, "American Beauty/American Psycho" - in fact, the "Death of a Bachelor" song "Don't Threaten Me With a Good Time" samples the catchy old guitar riff in The B-52's' "Rock Lobster," a recipe uncannily identical to Fall Out Boy's sample job in "Uma Thurman."
Secondly, with the album not solely focused on this retro revival, but a juggling between that and shiny pop rock, the oscillation between vintage and modern sounds throughout the album doesn't come off like a theme of captivating juxtaposition, but rather, a clashing case of Urie trying to have his cake and eat it too. The bouts of classic crooning, soul and R& B moments for him to unleash his vocal chops is a satisfying offering (especially following up from the hamstringing '80s processing his voice was subject to in PATD's previous album), but that seems to be the only reason for Urie's choice to have the album veer in that direction - showing off. By all other accounts, the diverse selection of songs in "Death of a Bachelor" doesn't congeal well, and doesn't seem to have much reason to. // 5
Lyrics: With a concept that arguably runs in tandem with the enraptured debauchery of "Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!," Urie's lyrics in "Death of a Bachelor" tells of a man who goes from a lifestyle of freewheeling hedonism to emotional attachment by, you guessed it, falling in love. Along with being another version of the same album-spanning stories Urie has crafted in past PATD albums, his first-person narrative of this story isn't extraordinary. The party-hard imagery of "Victorious" and "Don't Threaten Me With a Good Time" is par-for-the-course for any vacuous, materialistic pop music (with the amnesiac likes of the latter being similar to Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)"), and the arc of heartbreak in "Death of a Bachelor," "House of Memories" and "Impossible Year" is par-for-the-course for any songs about love and loss, with "Impossible Year" ending things on the same crestfallen breakup tone that the last two PATD albums ended on.
Urie's lyrical tricks also fall short in many cases, like his elementary similes ("Shooting fireworks like it's the Fourth of July" in "Victorious"), clichéd punchlines ("I've told you time and time again / I'm not as think as you drunk I am" in "Don't Threaten Me With a Good Time"), and an attempted theme at intriguing contrasts in "Emperor's New Clothes" ("I'm all dressed up and naked"). But in the span of the album, the main character's transformation from vapid joy-chaser, to enamored monogamist, to a heartbroken shell of a man displays an interesting cycle from emptiness to fullness to a different kind of emptiness. Whereas the stimulating, substance-fueled party lifestyle in the beginning acts as a flashy veneer hiding an emotionally empty man, his post-breakup emptiness still harbors more substantial meaning than his former life of shallow pleasures ever did. // 6
Overall Impression: Urie's ambitions for PATD have always been a mixed bag, both in the sense of what kind of music comes as a result, and in the sense of how well it works when it manifests. With "Death of a Bachelor" being a stronger appeal to Urie's multi-faceted aspirations than any previous PATD album, it also ends up being the most cluttered album in the band's catalog. While his vocal performance makes the best case for the album, Urie's urge to dust off old music styles and trying them on for size is behind the curve in taste-making, and the necessity to maintain a contemporary sheen trips upon the vintage appeals numerous times. // 5
Death Of A Bachelor
Guitar_Maverick, on january 22, 2016 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: Panic! At The Disco return with their greatly anticipated 5th studio album, "Death of a Bachelor." This is an interesting album for the band, with Brendon Urie being the only official band member. Of course, fans may have already heard over half the album, as the band released 6 tracks prior to release, ranging back as far as April 2015. The tracks released so far were definitely cause for excitement ahead of the album, interesting musically and lyrically, presenting a variety of ideas and directions the album could go in. Upon listening to the album, there is some weight to the claim that the best songs could have already been released, but there is a lot going on throughout the diverse album.
The most noticeable thing about the tracks on the album, is how catchy they are. Very few tracks fail to remain in your head for hours after first listen; and this is due largely to the expert use of instrumentation, textures, and vocals. A great example of this is "Hallelujah," the verse is comprised of just drums, bass, and maybe a synth for padding behind the vocals, creating a sparse texture. The rhythms of the vocals are interesting here, and the delivery is almost rapped rather than sung as each syllable gets one note. This is harshly contrasted by the chorus which erupts into life with guitars, a brass section, and a backing gospel choir which all create a very dense and full texture. Over which is Brendon's soaring melismatic vocal melodies, which only become more extravagant as the song progresses. This contrast makes these dramatic chorus sections stand out even more, and really engages the listener. The other factor that makes these songs instantly catchy, is their dynamic range, or the lack of one. // 3
Lyrics: Although the textures may alter dramatically between sections, the sparse textures are never actually quieter than the dense, "loud" sections. The album has been incredibly heavily compressed, and to the point that it's highly audible and distracting. Heavy compression is a common feature for "radio friendly" albums, as it helps songs to standout (something very necessary when it only has 3 minutes to capture an audience). What it means for an album though, is that the listener's ears become tired very quickly, and indeed, this album is difficult to fully listen through in one sitting. Some tracks on the album are suited to this production: "Victorious," "Emperor's New Clothes" and "LA Devotee" are naturally have a small dynamic range, making them obvious single choices. However, "Hallelujah," "Death of a Bachelor" and "Golden Days" all greatly suffer from this feature.
The genre and style of "Death of a Bachelor" is very creative, combining jazz elements with electronic music; however, the presence of the bass in the verse is overbearing, and distracts from the good aspects of the song. "Golden Days" is probably the biggest sufferer from the production though, there is an element of the bass/kick being too loud again in the verse, but the main issue stems from the difference in texture. The sparse texture is very loud, and the huge contrast between the pre-chorus (great section) and the chorus means that there are suddenly so many more instruments to fit into the same small space. The result is over-compression: the cymbals and distorted guitars are clipping throughout the chorus; the whole space sounds squashed and the vocals are difficult to hear. It's a shame as the music in this song is actually pretty good, and this is common on the album. // 7
Overall Impression: Listening more intently, through the wall of loudness and clipping, there are a lot of really creative and interesting ideas at work throughout. For example, in the opening track, "Victorious," there is a section where vocals are in canon with the guitar, melodically and rhythmically. The line "Punch drunk kiss I know you need it, do you feel it drink of water drink of wine" to lead into the chorus is fantastic, it grabs attention and is an excellent variation of the verse melody. A look deeper uncovers that the rhythm and melody of the first part of that line "Punch drunk kiss I know you need" is the same as the guitar line preceding it. The second half of that line repeats the pattern again. It's really clever instrumental writing that happens a lot in music, for example across 2 guitars, but it's rarely on vocals. In this case it has such a strong effect, and really helps this section stand out, and makes the transition into the chorus really distinctive. A similar thing happens again in "Emperor's New Clothes": "and if you don't know, now you know" has the same melody as the bass line before it. In this case it's imitation because it's not exactly the same (different octave), and it comes straight after the bass line; but it once again has a strong effect on the transition section, and makes it much more memorable. There are various other aspects of the album that have a similar level of impressiveness including the use of falsetto during the chorus of "Death of a Bachelor," it's a shame however that these are difficult to uncover through the production.
Overall, "Death of a Bachelor" is an ok album, the musical styles are creative, placing an electronic twist on rock, jazz and swing to put Panic!'s own unique spin on the songs. There are also some great features and techniques used in these tracks, the manipulation of subject matter for imitation and canon is clever; the songs also display Urie's impressive vocal range and abilities.Unfortunately though, there are a number of "filler" tracks on the album, and the mix, and master of the tracks really lets them down. There is such an emphasis placed on ensuring the songs are instantly catchy, and well suited to plays on the radio, that it is to the detriment of the songs and the album as a whole.
Standout Tracks: "Victorious," "Death of a Bachelor," "The Good, the Bad and the Dirty." // 5
Death Of A Bachelor
Falloutboyasfvc, on april 13, 2016 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Brendon Urie's vocals bloom along with his new solo sound on the first album with Urie as the only member. Along with the usual guitar riffs and loud drums there is an element of disco and soul to this album, as well as more use of electronic effects. The quality of the sound was crystal clear, and the seamless producing was an added bonus. The electronic elements differed from their previous sound, apart from on their debut album, and at certain points it made the album better, whereas at other times it did the opposite. However, I thought that, like all Panic! albums, this had it's own unique sound, and was quite incomparable. // 9
Lyrics: The lyrics expressed, like most Panic! albums, included the usuals about getting wasted and partying, but also some new lyrical directions. For instance, on the title track he sings about being young in the rock music business and being expected to be a player, yet he is married to his wife and he, despite loving it, feels the pressures like anyone would. All the lyrics were exceptionally well-written, and fitted the music like a glove. All songs were packed full of the witty metaphors that all Panic! fans are familiar with, and I enjoyed the lyrical finesse immensely. // 10
Overall Impression: This is not comparable to much, including other Panic! albums, but I would say it is maybe my third favourite in their discography. My favourite songs from the album were the title track, "LA Devotee," "The Good, The Bad and the Dirty," and "Impossible Year." I Love the way that the sound of the band has morphed and evolved with every album, and I look forward to seeing what comes next. However, I felt that the electronic components did not add positively to the listening experience for me. Lastly, if this album were lost or stolen I would definitely buy it again! // 10