By Isabella Dionne
Just over ten years ago, the once pop punk greats Panic! At The Disco released their debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, to great acclaim and success. In 2008, the band returned with an equally—if not more—remarkable album, Pretty. Odd. This sophomore release proved the group could change their sound from emo vaudeville to baroque indie pop while maintaining the witty lyricism and artful, eccentric musical cohesiveness that first won over audiences. But by their third album, Panic! had lost two of their original four members—bassist Brent Wilson and guitarist Ryan Ross. After their fourth, founding drummer Spencer Smith also left the band. By 2015, Panic! had lost not only three of its four founding members, but also the signature sound that made its iconic first two albums so celebrated and loved.
Released on January 15, 2016, Death of a Bachelor is the first Panic! album to be written and recorded solely by lead singer and now multi-instrumentalist Brendon Urie. The album kicks off with four previously premiered songs—“Victorious,” “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time,” “Hallelujah,” and “Emperor’s New Clothes”—all of which feature an upbeat, bass-heavy tone better suited to the dance floor than to the pop punk venues of the band’s roots.
The first bit of “new” material (although the song had been previously premiered on Beats 1) comes almost halfway through the album in “Death of a Bachelor.” The title track offers a change in pace from the nightclub-ready first four, with Urie attempting a Sinatra-like voice in a swingy tune about condemning oneself with a life-changing decision. But the monotonous power pop tone continues straight through the rest of the album until its final song. Urie closes Death of a Bachelor with another jazzily crooned track titled “Impossible Year.” It is by far the album’s bleakest but most unique song, offering lyrics that are puzzlingly pessimistic when juxtaposed with the ritzy and fast-paced tone of the ten songs it follows.
At its best, Death of a Bachelor is closer to a Brendon Urie solo project than a work truly up to the previous Panic! standard. Each track on the album is catchy and likable in its own right. But the LP remains a scattered and failed attempt at conceptualizing the complications of fame, stardom, and glamour. Lyrically, strong themes are present; musically, the album lacks any sort of cohesiveness at all. While Death of a Bachelor offers a handful of tunes that will satisfy the casual listener, it’s clear the band’s true “golden days” lie far behind them.