Panic! At The Disco reminds me of junior high school and early 2000s emo rock, a lite version of mentor band Fall Out Boy.
So when Brendon Urie, the band’s driving force and only remaining original member, compared Panic! At The Disco’s new album to a “mix between Sinatra and Queen,” two of my favorite artists, it really caught my attention. Urie, a self-described fan of the artists he seeks to emulate, seems to think he’s ready to climb down from the shoulders of these giants who toiled to pave the way for rock and jazz, and become one of them.
He couldn’t be more wrong.
With his latest album, “Death of a Bachelor,” Urie hopes to be hailed as the living heir of Frank Sinatra and Freddie Mercury, but he lacks both Mercury’s exuberance and Sinatra’s crooning and effortless finesse.
His efforts to revive the spirit of Ol’ Blue Eyes are genuine yet forced. The strain is most evident in the title track and “Impossible Year,” which sound like unripe tributes to Sinatra’s own “The Way You Look Tonight” and “It Was A Very Good Year,” respectively.
While Urie makes his Sinatra influence very clear, nothing in the album suggests anything worthy of Queen’s legacy of operatic songs, powerful vocals and timeless legacy. For an album that is supposedly the love child of Sinatra and Queen, there is a conspicuous absence of the British rock band’s influence.
However, in its own context, the album is a fun listen. “Death of a Bachelor” is a refreshing throwback to rock, jazz and 20th-century culture. It retains Panic! At The Disco’s multilayered sound with all its electronic instruments, rock guitars and jazzy horns, as well as the band’s characteristically picturesque lyrics as Urie sings “I roam the city in a shopping cart / A pack of Camels and a smoke alarm” in “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time.”
The album’s first seven songs are catchy and full of energy. This is Urie at his best, his powerful voice smoothly swaggering in a variety of styles and rhythms.
The album’s best track, “Crazy=Genius,” highly reminiscent of K7′s “Hi De Ho” and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s rendition of “Minnie the Moocher,” is a well-executed fusion of jazz and rock that pushes the song with a driving drum beat and blaring trumpets, creating an almost irresistible invitation to grab the nearest person and dance.
“LA Devotee” is so vivid and lively that the listener can easily picture the “swimming pools under desert skies” while “drinking white wine in the blushing light” and feel the almost palpable love Urie has for the city.
A dizzying spectacle, “Death of a Bachelor” is a showcase of sounds from eras long passed that starts with a bang. But the final four tracks see that energy quickly decline and become rather boring, ending the album on an anticlimactic note.
The progression of the album itself is an artistic illustration, an ebb and flow from the album’s initial liveliness to the energy death insinuated in the album’s title. Panic! At The Disco’s fifth studio album tries to portray the metaphorical journey from youthful exuberance to an older melancholy. It’s an interesting artistic direction and a cute thought, but the tempo changes too abruptly in such a short period of time; the execution fails to live up to the vision.
Urie’s spirit and versatility keeps the now one-man act of Panic! At The Disco very much alive, although this newfound freedom (Urie wrote all the lyrics and played all vocals and instruments except for the horns) leads him into blunders like his lofty and unfulfilled comparison to Frank Sinatra and Freddie Mercury. Urie’s efforts produce heartfelt tributes tingling with nostalgia, as if he were born a few decades too late, but he ultimately fails to fully capture the essence of his heroes.
– Matthew Fernandez