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Panic! At the Disco’s fifth LP might be its best yet

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Annie Zaleski

Four stars

Panic! At The Disco Death of a Bachelor

Panic! At the Disco’s seemingly endless career momentum is a marvel. Over the past decade, the band—a Vegas-formed quartet famously discovered by Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz before playing a single show—has weathered lineup changes and stylistic metamorphoses, while maintaining its popularity. That’s largely due to principal songwriter Brendon Urie, the sole remaining founding member, who’s known for unleashing a faithful cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” making next-level Vine videos and generally being one of the most charismatic singers around.

But this fan devotion also stems from Panic!’s commitment to crafting challenging music. The band is a chameleonic pop machine fond of mashing up eras, genres and sounds with devilish, defiant glee. Even the new Death of a Bachelor, the group’s most sonically cohesive record, is wildly ambitious: The title track pairs Urie’s Rat Pack croon with moody soul horns and a snappy R&B vibe, while “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” fuses a surf-spy noir sample of The B-52s’ “Rock Lobster” with slam-poet vocals and a glammy guitar solo.

In another unexpected twist, “Hallelujah” begins with a piece of Chicago’s “Questions 67 and 68,” an appropriate intro to the gospel-tinged number. But Death of a Bachelor’s overarching inspiration is Sinatra. Urie is an avowed fan, and honors both the tender and celebratory musical side of the legend. The stunning, album-closing orchestral croon “Impossible Year” boasts wistful piano and brassy awards-show horns, while another standout, “Crazy=Genius,” is a high-stepping swing-jazz treat.

Death of Bachelor’s lyrical sentimentality also nods to Ol’ Blue Eyes. Cascading, Fall Out Boy-ish standout “LA Devotee” is a mash note to Urie’s adopted city and all its charms, while crashing power-pop gem “Golden Days” uses found photographs to illustrate wistfulness about days gone by—“Oh, don’t you wonder when the light begins to fade?/And the clock just makes the colors turn to gray?/Forever younger growing older just the same/All the memories that we make will never change”—even if there are no regrets, those good times are in the past.

It’s strangely appropriate that Death of a Bachelor arrives the same week David Bowie passed away. The record feels like a victory for pop misfits and outsiders, a bold statement about not compromising one’s creative vision for the sake of commercial concessions.

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