By, Bobby Baird
“Do I look Lonely? I see the shadows on my face, People have told me, I don’t look the same, maybe I lost weight, I’m playing hooky, with the best of the best, put my heart on my chest, so that you can see it too…” croons Brandon Urie on the title track of Panic! At the Disco, a brilliant arrangement that harkens back to the big band era with a modern twist. Uri says goodbye to the single life in an album recorded right before his wedding to Sarah Orzechowski. Stylistically the album is all over the place, yet somehow it functions with the common thread of pop-maximalism that Panic is celebrated for.
The album opens with “Victorious” a tune that fits like a jigsaw piece into “Top-40” radio. The chant intro that previews a soaring chorus in which Urie screams like a banshee lays a texture that’s perfect for singing along with in the car, or screaming at parties. The verses provide an interesting harmonic texture, as Urie steps down by half steps from the 7th scale degree till he lands on the root of the dominant chord (Sorry, I am a Jazz performer, and I live for chromaticism). On top of that the tune is packed full of tasty guitar licks, zesty synthesizers, and little riffs that energetically emphasize the vocal melody.
When “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time” first came ringing into my headphones, the reverb drenched guitar riff seamed oddly familiar. Quoting the B-52’s “Rock Lobster” gives this pop track a motive that brings it down to a darker determined texture following an optimistic verse and refrain. Once again Panic! litters their songs with little treats ranging from quick synthesizer licks, and a hardly noticeable trumpet line that provides the perfect basket for the vocal line.
Have I discussed the title track enough? Have I even listened to it enough? Absolutely not. In the verse sultry saxophones that nod to Guy Lombardo, sit between Urie’s sonorous croons, and a phased out synthesizer. This is juxtaposed in the chorus with a fiery falsetto, accompanied by beautiful voice leading in the horn section. Urie’s lyrics remind me of Lorenz Hart, packed with off-rhymes, assonance, and a bit of melancholy when he alludes to sharing one final drink.
The Albums finale “Impossible Year” is a lovely ballad, cloaked in a melancholy perhaps alludes to not only Urie’s impatiens with his slow march towards his wedding, but additionally to the anxiousness that clouded 2016, and continues to clouds our current time. Much like the classic jazz arrangements of the 1940s, Urie gives two A sections to the accompanying instrumalists, before coming to a slow disfigured finish that fades out like Urie’s bachelordom.
My one qaum with the album? Maybe it is a bit to pop oriented. These days everyone is going for the same sound. Soaring choruses, electronic riffs that sound unrecognizable, muted overdriven guitars. I often wonder why we strive for the unrecognizable, and everything has to be constantly reinvented. It is like we are in the fast-food era of music. Here it is happening with Urie’s creation of a devolved form of jazz. It feels as if modern artists keep diluting the type of music they originally wanted to create. Everyone is seeking to be a rebel, but where is the intent other than just trying to be different. Maybe I am too much of a cynic, but it seams like the cost of unlimited freedom, is a lack of morality.
Anyway, my rambling is getting off track here. I am giving Panic! At the Disco’s new album seven Panic Attacks out of ten Discos. They did a solid job putting together a fun pop-punk, or mostly pop album. That being said, I do not think this album is going down in history as something unforgettable, but it certainly will get a number of plays on any major Clear-Channel, or iHeart Media controlled station. Oh lord, I am heading towards another rant about the current state of our corporate media structure… I will save that rant for another time. Keep listenin’.