Urie! At The Disco is finally back with their fifth studio album, Death of a Bachelor, and this time the lead vocalist himself gets full creative freedom apart from songwriting (for the most part). I never really got around to some of the tracks released ahead of time such as Victorious or Hallelujah, but since the album has just dropped, maybe it's time to dive into it.
I haven't reviewed in the past month or so, as such, going sort of fresh (5 songs were leaked or released) felt like a new challenge. And for Panic! At The Disco (or just Brendon Urie) for this album felt like a monumental one. I loved Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die, their preceding record and felt that had the band zoned in on a topic with much of the same energy, it would really get up to something good. And in this case, as apparent from the first few singles, something wasn't that right.
Not many people got into Panic!, especially since A Fever You Can't Sweat Out debuted a decade ago. They're appalling to fans and listeners alike, but the way their music was constructed felt organic and snappy, something that became the backbone for the band in recent albums (Vices & Virtues especially). The alternative band also has changed their line-up in recent years as well. In Death of a Bachelor, something felt missing. Perhaps you might know what I'm leading to?
First and foremost, this latest solo triumph from Urie is far from worst, but it definitely came from too many angles that were forced, unnecessary and formulaic. While he did keep most of the freedom of songwriting away from his hands, I think that's where the album struggled to keep pace with it. Or, as others may see it, the other way round. This album felt less natural and less "Panic!", though others may be inclined to disagree, but the lyrics and the powerhouse vocals are still there. In fact, the latter may just be the shining star on this album.
There's quite a few problems that ticks the box for the album dropping scores, and one of them would be the instrumentals being in the way of everything else. Because Urie handled everything, it just became a instrument-fest of trying to cram everything in the 3-4 minute space available and reverb it back in the hopes that the vocals can be able to soar through. Victorious' guitar piece was throttling and vibrant, but the influx of mayhem coming into the chorus felt like a headache to endure and enjoy. It's not that bad, but it's definitely not good.
The lyrics are sub-par for the most part, but there's ideas that feel much more sincere and have ideas pushing from behind them. "I'm not as think as you drunk I am" from Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time was a surprising laugh, and the emotional course with the album track felt honest as well. The tones were matched well, but it just didn't deliver as most fans had expected from the band. Crazy=Genius and Emperor's New Clothes had much more gusto word-power that made the songs feel like rock anthems -- something I would've wished to see more of.
And the album places a grandiose feeling to it, but never quite pulls it off with as much enthusiasm as I would've liked to hear. LA Devotee felt toned down and carried by the horns, House of Memories had a bare-bone guitar riff as it's spine which isn't all that exciting at all and Impossible Year, quite possibly one of my least favourites, did itself no favours when Urie tries to go from pump-action revolver to a Frank Sinatra solemn piece. It just felt like he needed to put an emotional roller-coaster (albeit lacking vocoders) for the sake of ending the album and because of it, the gut punch felt less satisfying and more random.
There's not to say this album is bad by any means, as I've said above. Brendon Urie's vocals sound as strong and visceral as ever, tearing apart the high-notes on Victorious, Hallelujah and Emperor's New Clothes for example. For fans expecting a juggernaut experience from the front-man, they should look no further with Death of a Bachelor, the album's title track. The truthful, candid track with a thumping bass underneath was carried out and carried by Urie's fantastic vocals with his Sinatra spin on it, making it quite possibly the best song on the album.
Some of the ideas, while condensed and bruised to an extent from the formulaic structure, had a solid execution to it as well. The Good, The Bad And The Dirty, House of Memories and Crazy=Genius were accomplished, but while they weren't sparkling, the effort was definitely there.
Saying it for the third and final time, this album was probably not as good as I had hopes, but to say that Brendon Urie's vision and creative freedom didn't lend itself to much use, would be equally wrong. The album does serve up some nice dishes, but at the same time it panders too much to the flavourings and lacks any original taste of it. A couple more bittersweet, climactic or adventurous tracks would've fit into this album perfectly. While I didn't come into this album expecting a lot, I definitely feel that it's a solid album and a recommendation as well.
Essentials: Death of a Bachelor
Favourite Tracks: Emperor's New Clothes, Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time, LA Devotee
Least Favourite Tracks: Impossible Year, Golden Days
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.