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.