“I’m a scholar and gentleman and I usually don’t fall when I try to stand” are the lyrics that come pouring out of Brendon Urie’s mouth, tinged with the smirking grace of blatant irony, on “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time” – a chaotic frenzy of operatic pop punk and catchy pop hooks. They are fitting lyrics to describe Panic! At The Disco’s triumphant fifth studio album: Death of A Bachelor. Band members have been dropping from Panic! At The Disco have been dropping like flies under a sustained blast of Doom. Ryan Ross and John Walker left the band after the release of 2008’s Pretty. Odd and left Urie and Spencer Smith to continue as a duo until Dallon Weekes was introduced as their bassist. 2015 saw Smith leaving the band and Weekes being downgraded to only being a touring member of the band. This left Urie as the sole member of the band, therefore, leaving Urie to record Death Of A Bachelor as an entirely solo affair while still using the Panic! At The Disco moniker, because why kill a good brand name?
Urie could be criticised for his decision to release a solo album under Panic! At The Disco’s name. He could be accused of using the name as a marketing scheme. Hell, he’ll probably be labelled as a Top 40 sell-outs by those crusty punk guys that lurk in music stores ragging on alternative bands that achieved success. Actually, let’s face it. As soon as Panic! At The Disco were labelled as sell-outs the moment that they released Vices and Virtues. It is why alternative music is such a farce. An act is considered as a sell-out as soon as their music starts finding its way onto popular radio and this apparently “degrades” the quality of the music. It is an absurd notion and one that Urie riddles with lead from the six-shooter that is Death of a Bachelor.
You see. Urie may have made this a solo affair but at no point does he stray away from the traditional Panic! At The Disco principal of constantly evolving their sound to reach new heights. They started their career with a baroque fusion of dancehall swing music, emo lyrical aesthetics and the tongue-in-cheek wit and energy of pop punk. They topped this with Pretty. Odd – an album styled off of some The Beatles’ more psychedelic elements. Vices and Virtues was a straight-up pop album while Too Weird To Live, Too Weird To Die saw them experimenting with hip-hop elements. Their discography contains such an extensive collection of musical experimentation that it makes it difficult to image that they could possibly do something different with their new album, but Urie managed to pull it off. Somehow.
Death Of A Bachelor sees Urie blurring the lines between the worlds of jazz, pop punk and classic rock as he creates an album that he described as being a cross between Queen and Frank Sinatra, but with his own flair for dramatics and punk rock energy. This is not a facetious description. Death Of A Bachelor is a beautiful and weird hybrid of jazz horn sections, crooning vocals, abrasively catchy pop punk riffs, foot stomping drum samples and swelling waves of operatic classic rock. The opening song “Victorious” does not give the initial impression that this album could be remotely linked to either Queen or Sinatra, or, at least, it doesn’t with the opening cheerleader gang vocals, but then Urie hits you with glorious high notes. However, “Victorious” is still one of the weakest songs on the albums as it comes off as the theme song to a poorly-cast rags-to-riches film about a small college football team that starts at the bottom of the league table and claws their way to the top.
Move past “Victorious”. It may be an infectious song with clever lyrics that serves as the hype-man to the album. “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time” is where the album truly hits its full stride with its edgy pop punk riffs and lyrics that flow from semi-rapped sections to piercing high notes. It sets the tone for the album as being one that retains a sense of classiness as heard in Urie’s clean-cut vocals, but still maintains some semblance of virility and pop punk playfulness. “Hallelujah” and “Emperor’s New Clothes” are both songs that we have already heard as they were the true teasers to the album. They gave the first indication that Urie would be creating an album that would bear some similarity to A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, but then we were hit by the heavy jazz influences and Urie’s tremendous vocal range. It was at that moment that Death Of A Bachelor was going to be something that we’ve never heard before.
This a point cemented in the latter half of the album. Jazzy horn sections swirl about pop punk riffs and uptempo drum sections that sound like they were pulled straight from the soundtrack to Chicago. “Crazy=Genius” may sound like Urie boasting about his musical talent, but it is well-deserved boasting as the sheer madness of Death of a Bachelor definitely does equate to genius. Urie. “Golden Days” bristles with brooding pop punk aggression that is tempered by jazz hall croons and a theatrical flair as Urie hits numerous high notes on the choruses. “The Good, The Bad And The Dirty” is the best example of how jazz and pop punk are fused together on Death of a Bachelor. Brass sections play beneath pop punk hooks while a fusion of pop punk hand claps and groovy jazz drum samples create the backing beat to Urie’s sleazy anthem to humanity.
There is so much else that could be said about the album. One could talk about how the album defies the notion that pop music is overproduced garbage. It could be noted that for a “sell-out” band – Panic! At The Disco sure do create music that falls very far from the linear genre constraints of pop music. Urie sings of an impossible year in the Sinatra-inspired closing track of the album. This might be an impossible year for all those that are of the opinion that Panic! At The Disco are sell-outs, because they just delivered one of the strongest albums of 2016. Brendon Urie. You are definitely capable of standing up.