For some unthinkable reason, 2005 seems to be making some sort of comeback. With the likes of Fall Out Boy continuing to stick around after their ‘reunion’ a few years back and a new Paramore album in the works, it’s making me want to put on a pair of Etnies, a Hollister t-shirt, and slap on a “Live Strong” rubber band bracelet. Then I remember how much 2005 sucked for the Alternative Rock scene then stop dead in my tracks. Of course we didn’t have to deal with Nü-Metal anymore and Hip-Hop stayed in it’s respective genre, but it was still a dark time for anyone who enjoyed the Punk side of rock due to the onslaught of emotionally charged acts that had somehow slipped their way into the mainstream.
It’s not a shocking plot device how the mainstream record labels wanted to get their grubby hands on some of that sweet bank the movement was raking in and just as they began signing any band who wore flannel in the 90s when Nirvana broke out, they began gobbling up any act that sounded remotely emotional and molded them into streamlined marketing machines with the sole purpose of draining every tween of their hard earned money. When that particular model proved to be financially sound, the next wave featured an even more pop influenced acts like Panic! At The Disco.
Coming in on the tail end of the emo movement, Panic! At The Disco appealed to a wider audience by looking like The Killers but sounding enough like Fall Out Boy where parents, or anyone with any good taste, would still be turned off, making the fan base almost exclusively teenage girls. Their 2005 debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out was an instant classic and staple on nearly every teenager’s iPod Nano. Excluding their sophomore release Pretty Odd (a Panic! At The Disco record that I’m not ashamed to admit, I enjoy) the rest of their career was a continued downward spiral of line-up changes, dwindling album sales, and an industry shift where many of their Pop Emo brethren fell victim to similar fates. Despite releasing albums up until 2013, most of the world moved on rather quickly leaving Panic! At The Disco a fuzzy memory, like the MySpace Instant Messenger.
The brief history lesson on the Emo movement and legacy of Panic! At The Disco may seem excessive, but it’s truly necessary to understand the wave of embarrassment that swept over me upon listening to their latest album Death Of A Bachelor.
Within the first 15 seconds of the opening track “Victorious,” we’re greeted by a chorus line of what sounds like a cheerleader ensemble chanting a superficial hook that would fit comfortably within a 2008 Katy Perry single, followed by a nasally barrage of word salad that almost begs to be played at a low volume or turned off altogether, in fear of someone catching and making fun of you for the rest of your life. With the focus on simplified hooks and heavy synths, it’s painfully obvious that on this go around, any creativity has been thrown out in favor of a last ditch effort at mainstream relevance.
“Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time” shows Panic! At The Disco arent above taking a page out of Fall Out Boy’s post-reunion success book, in the way it opens with a sample of thought-to-be forgotten guitar riff ( The B52’s “Rock Lobster” as opposed to Fall Out Boy using The Munster’s theme in that God awful “Uma Thurman” song) revealing the biggest problem I have with the entirety of Death Of A Bachelor. The lack of dignity. We’re talking Panic! At The Disco here so I wasn’t exactly expecting this generation’s White Album, but Death Of A Bachelor is filled with songs that seem under developed and presented with little to no confidence. In fact, half of this record was released throughout last year as if to test the waters if fans would even care. There is nothing that stands out as overly bad, just generic, soulless padding that is strung together by a loose theme of being a party hard bachelor who falls in love and ends up broken hearted and alone. It’s not even an ambitious theme in story telling.
From a production standpoint, Death Of A Bachelor sounds glossy and synthetically produced with the main focus being beats and keyboards with the occasional brass section, playing up the Las Vegas vibe. There’s a just a little too much emphasis on vocals just like most pop records these days and there are plenty of times when Brendon Urie’s nasally, vocal tremolo gets so grating and you wish he would just shut up for at least 20 seconds, but similar issues have been present during previous releases and shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the few die-hard fans that are left.
Overall Death Of A Bachelor doesn’t break any new ground but it’s not the worst thing from Fueled By Ramen (*ahem* Twenty One Pilots) Thankfully it burns through it’s slim tracklisting at a rate where it hopes you don’t realize how empty and passionless it is. There are a couple decent pop tracks but nothing that excels more than background music at Old Navy. There is a part of me that really wished this could have been a proper follow up to Pretty Odd but what I ended up with is a mildly generic attempt at trying to play along with younger, relevant, dance-rock bands, but no one cares enough to notice they don’t belong. Panic! At The Disco could very well be the musical equivalent of MySpace; average fun in it’s prime but obsolete and pointless in 2016.