Album review: Panic! at the Disco, ‘Death of a Bachelor’
When Panic! at the Disco crash-landed into pop a decade ago with the double-platinum “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out,” the Vegas-born band made itself known for its hyperattenuated, well,everything — rapid-fire lyrics delivered with panache by teenage lead singer Brendon Urie, intricately arranged pop tunes that played as “emo” for the “TRL” audiences while churning with Broadway-level theatricality, a tour that worked more like a circus, complete with contortionists and stilt-walkers.
Over the years the band has shape-shifted: switching out members, toying with different pop styles, and ditching, then restoring, its appellative exclamation mark. Urie is the only remaining vestige of the “Fever” era, but Panic! at the Disco’s fifth studio album, “Death of a Bachelor,” is propelled by a slightly more mature version of the eyebrow-cocked élan that defined the band’s earliest work.
Urie’s voice has only become better with age; in another era he would have probably been a straight-up crooner, as evidenced by the title track — which updates the strings-and-schmaltz formula of earlier eras’ pop with skittering beats and glittering synths — and the stinging last-call ballad “Impossible Year.” Tracks like the peppy poison-pen missive “LA Devotee” and the grandiose “Hallelujah” place Urie’s vocal in a modern context with winning results.
“Bachelor” doesn’t always hit; the “Rock Lobster” sample grafted onto “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” is a bit too obvious (and a bit too similar to the central conceit of “Uma Thurman” by Fall Out Boy, whose Pete Wentz was Urie’s earliest champion), while the schoolyard chant that drives the boastful “Victorious” irritates in a way similar to Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood,” or a dream about being trapped in elementary-school purgatory. But Urie’s charm and willingness to maximize his songs’ pop-spectacle quotient make “Bachelor” an often-delightful accompaniment to 2016’s earliest, chilliest weeks.
ESSENTIAL “Death of a Bachelor”