Panic! At the Disco’s “Death of a Bachelor”: Five Singles Deep

UPDATE: Full “Death of a Bachelor review here

As we cross the threshold into the second half of – what the fuck do you call this decade? the 2010s? – putting out two or three “promotional singles” for an album is a thing of the past, and streaming half (or all) of a body of work ahead of time is rapidly evolving into “industry standard”. It’s yet another music industry shift that benefits the consumer, as it allows fans to make a more educated guess about the quality of an upcoming release and a prospective “purchase” of it. Panic! At the Disco’s fifth full-length LP Death of a Bachelor doesn’t drop for another week and a half, but we can now stream 45.45% of the album thanks to the recent addition of a fifth single, “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time” (though the title track does count as six, it’s not technically part of the album’s stream). It’s actually been quite a slow ramp-up, with “Hallelujah” coming out as early as last July, but we’re certainly down the stretch now, and I figured I’d dive into these five singles simultaneously and see what Death of a Bachelor might have in store for us come January 16th.

Victorious: The album opener, which has been floating around the internet for a couple months now, has grown on me tremendously. My initial reaction wasn’t negative but was rather one of mild, underwhelmed indifference. But as I approach listen number ten or so, “Victorious” is truly brimming with energy, thanks in part to Brendon Urie’s rapid fire vocal delivery in the verses and the rollicking stomp of the post-chorus. It’s as hooky as ever too. “Living like a washed up celebrity” is an especially fun line that continues to stick with me. When I saw Panic! live this past September, “Victorious” wasn’t out yet, but this is a future live STAPLE if I’ve ever heard one.

Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time: The fifth and latest single from Bachelor is introduced with a silly guitar riff that recurs throughout the song, alternating time in the spotlight with an appropriately goofy descending piano line. When the chorus arrives, however, it feels noticeably stripped down and empty, especially compared to “Victorious”, which precedes it in the track listing. Perhaps this is intentional, but to my ears, it leaves more to be desired. I did enjoy the Ratatat-esque harmonized guitar solo, but I found this to be the least satisfying of the five tracks and debatable single material. However, it does sit quite well in between the explosive energy of Victorious and Hallelujah, leaving few strikes against it aside from “why did this need to be released in advance of the album?”

Hallelujah: My initial impression of this album’s first single was that it was a half-hearted attempt at an “anthem”. It still kind of feels that way to me, but after witnessing an overwhelmingly positive response to its performance in concert this past September, I’ve grown to appreciate its merits in that environment, and I do “like”the song. Plus we get bombarded by some candy-sweet vocal harmonies, a reminder of Brendon Urie’s absurd singing talents.

Emperor’s New Clothes: Along with having the most aggressive hook of the five singles, “Emperor’s New Clothes” finds Urie splashing around in the lower end of his vocal range during the verses which is a welcome breather (we’re on track four of the album now, mind you) . He’s accompanied by some colorful electronic flourishes and a high-register, borderline intrusive bass line, leaving the song feeling a bit on the busy side. Plus, what the hell are these lyrics? Finders keepers losers weepers? All dressed up and naked? Though we do get a (possibly unintentional) Biggie shout-out with “if you don’t know, now you know”. As a song it’s far from uneventful, but some of its eccentricities might not be for everyone. Personally, I enjoy the chorus and not necessarily the body of the tune surrounding it.

LA Devotee: So now we’ve moved from Vegas on Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! to Los Angeles on Death of a Bachelor. Ok, sure. This is the track I did NOT see coming though. It has a totally different pace than the other four singles. A Pop-Punk influence hasn’t been this prominent on a Panic! At the Disco song in quite some time, but left turn or no left turn, it works. It really, really works. In what is likely to be an album highlight, the band throw a big, sexy – not to mention catchy – wrench in the works.

Love, hate, or indifferences aside, Panic! At the Disco continues to be distinctive. While my distaste for the band’s 2013 album Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! has worn off and I’ve come to really love a few of its tracks, my anticipation is definitely greater for Death of a Bachelor. I’m thinking it’s going to be a higher quality album, but most importantly, another unique chapter for an exciting band that refuses to write the same song twice.

Show Review: Panic! At the Disco @ City Hall Plaza – Boston, MA 9/17/15

For Boston radio station 92.9 – as well as a couple thousand excited Bostonians – this past Thursday was something to celebrate, with the station hosting and co-sponsoring a free concert in City Hall Plaza featuring alternative rock titans Panic! At the Disco. Surrounded by downtown Boston, the open Plaza area was bookended by a medium-sized outdoor stage in the front and sponsor tents and a crucial row of porta-potties in the back.

With a 5 PM temperature sitting somewhere in the upper-60s, accompanied by a light Boston breeze, the buzzing City Hall Plaza atmosphere felt like an extension of Summer. The Budweiser and Radio 92.9 tents set up in the back greeted me as I made my way across the plaza’s brick floor to the paved area closer to the stage, where a crowd of several hundred people had already formed in advance of opening act DJ Petro. In an interview with Radio 92.9 before the show, Panic! frontman Brendon Urie expressed his excitement: “I’m so stoked we get to play free shows. You get a massive, broader range of people, and it just makes the show insane.” And he was not wrong. For about three hours, City Hall Plaza became a melting pot of music fandom, with everybody from college students, to the Warped Tour crowd, to high school kids with cheap liquor in their Gatorade bottles, to out-of-place, mostly sober adults, all coming together to enjoy some free dinner time Panic! At the Disco, in weather that can only be described as a promoter’s wet dream.

Preceding Panic! was an opening set from the aforementioned DJ Petro, who spun mostly mash-ups for an anxious, rapidly-growing crowd. Throwback combinations of “Man in the Mirror” and “When I Come Around”, as well as “Turn Down for What” and Sum 41’s “Fat Lip” went over particularly well, while I chose to tune out the more painful reminders of my preteen years, like “Hollaback Girl”.

Panic! At the Disco made their entrance at 6:30 PM sharp with the bouncy “Vegas Lights”, easing into the show with one of the few deeper cuts that would divide the crowd. After several shifts, the band’s touring lineup currently consists of frontman Brendon Urie on vocals, guitar and piano, Kenneth Harris on lead guitar, Dallon Weekes on Bass, and Dan Pawlovich on drums. Accompanied by a modest light show that became increasingly central as dusk approached, the tight and energetic four-piece tore through a well-constructed eighteen-song set list for an audience that leaned more towards devoted followers than casual listeners. Less obvious choices like “Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met)” and “Nicotine” did nothing to slow the band’s momentum, all the while satisfying dedicated fans.

Just shy of ten years removed from their classic debut album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, the early Panic! material has not lost an ounce of appeal. The crowd, the majority of whom were likely in elementary school when Fever came out, responded feverishly (yep, I went there) to the energetic “Time to Dance”, “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage”, and obligatory closer “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”.

As the band weaved in and out of material from Fever as well as their other three studio albums – also tossing in well-received new single “Hallelujah” – frontman Brendon Urie’s vocal performance was nothing short of captivating. He embellished the songs with effortless falsetto shrieks and an abundance of charisma. The band also performed a spot-on rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, as well as a medley of Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” and AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Along”, all of which Urie sang to near perfection.

By the time Panic! began to play Ms. Jackson, the twelfth song in their set, nightfall had arrived and the show’s magical, carefree energy received a noticeable bump. The stage lights were now projecting onto the surrounding buildings, the fully packed crowd was mirroring every word, and the last 30 minutes felt altogether more intimate. It was a night I truly felt lucky to be apart of. As I walked out of the crowd during the last chorus of “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”, I felt some of my cynicism for popular music waft away. Sometimes a truly great band does get the spotlight, and when they do, be sure you’re there to witness it.