Death of a Bachelor, by Panic! At The Disco
Suggested by Stuart Legg
One of my favourite features on a band’s Wiki page is the Member Timeline, a horizontal bar graph that plots Musician against Date for the band’s entire history. You’ll see the founder members mark the passage of time as various journeymen come and go, bolstering the line-ups for demarked albums and tours, replacing the drug-addled and the departed as history dictates.
Panic! At the Disco have a particularly storied timeline, one which speaks volumes of the key protagonists involved, and one which is clearly reflected in the musical makeup of Death of a Batchelor.
Panic! At the Disco started as a Vegas High School Blink 182 covers band, formed by friends Ryan Ross (singer / guitarist) and Spencer Smith (drummer). They invited friend Brent Wilson to play bass, who in turn invited friend Brendon Urie to play guitar. Urie’s backing vocals led to the decision that Urie should be front and centre.
Their debut, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, was reviewed as Album 248. I called it workaday Pop Punk / Emo with assured vocals, that did little to elevate itself above its peers. There are eleven years between this and Death of a Batchelor, and the band, and musical style, have changed significantly in the interim.
A year after Fever, Wilson was ejected from the band, for “not progressing musically” with the other players. His replacement, Jon Walker, stayed their second album, before he and founder Ryan Ross left to pursue another project, citing a disagreement in Panic!’s musical direction as the reason. Touring bassist Dallon Weekes joined full-time, before both he and founder Spencer Smith departed in 2015.
Which leaves us with Panic! At the Disco today. A Brendon Urie solo project. The first release of which is Death of a Batchelor, on which he performs as frontman and multi-instrumentalist. This is made evident almost immediately by the massive yet over-indulgent sound.
Death of a Bachelor seems solely designed to showcase the talents of its creator. While this is understandable to a degree, it rather boils away the emotion, leaving a record that presents as a musical CV of sorts, a demo tape that stakes Urie’s claim for a crooning residency at a local casino. Songs such as the titular Death or a Batchelor are pure Sinatra, albeit with a Liberace chintz. There’s still some punky drive here, in songs such as the opener Victorious, but it’s wielded as a tool rather than worn as a badge.
It’s not a bad thing, this showy departure from type. There’s a sense of theatre that I find exciting, much more so than their earlier work. There’s the flowing pop of LA Devotee and the uber-camp cabaret of my standout Crazy = Genius, but while I’m smiling at the excess I can’t ignore the gratuitous preening. This album is peacock proud, which is likely deserved but gauche nonetheless.
While its reductive to compress the band’s evolution from high school friends to the vanity project of a singularly driven individual, the case can be made. And while the 6/10 Death of a Bachelor does deliver, it’s as a monument to a talent that has eclipsed the band’s beginnings. Is that to be lauded? I’ll leave that question to the philosophers.