Words: Dannii Leivers
Who would have thought that, of all the mid-noughties scenesters with serrated-fringes and smeared eyeliner, Panic! At The Disco frontman Brendon Urie would emerge as emo’s true eccentric and master of reinvention?
Over the last decade, Panic! have taken on various guises: the cabaret pop-punk starlets (2005’s ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’, lysergic Beatles enthusiasts (2008’s ‘Pretty. Odd’) and pop-rock synth-wielders (2013’s ‘Too Weird to Live, Too Rare To Die!’), while shedding members like they were going out of fashion. By 2016, the band had been reduced to a Brendon Urie solo project. Naturally, he celebrated his newfound freedom by assuming the role of a lavish casino-hopper on the bizarre, jazz-addled EDM of fifth album, ‘Death Of A Bachelor’.
He’s retained that persona and anything-goes attitude on ‘Pray For The Wicked’. Label mate Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz described the record as “’Death Of A Bachelor’ [Urie’s glam 2015 album] on steroids”, and that’s about right. The sounds here are zanier, basking in the neon glare of the Vegas Strip, as though Urie has bunged the gigantic hooks of modern pop – think Dua, Kehlani and Cardi B – in a cocktail shaker with old school swing and jazz, throwing back to the hedonistic age of Prohibition. It comes together brilliantly on opener ‘(Fuck A) Silver Lining’, which blare out of the blocks like a blow-outs from the album before, all extravagant Great Gatsby pool parties, parping horns and cascading champagne martinis.
- Read our long-ass Q&A with Brendon Urie
Beneath the sparkling gusto, though, this isn’t another party album. Thematically, it’s less absorbed in the high life; rather, it focuses on the difficult journey to get there. On ‘High Hopes’, Urie revisits the days when he would yearn for stardom in front of his bedroom mirror. “Didn’t know how but I always had a feeling I was gonna be that one in a million,” he croons amid gleaming brass and fluttering trap beats. Elsewhere, on the glitzy ‘Say Amen (Saturday Night)’, he digs into the realities of following a dream at direct odds with his Mormon upbringing, howling, “Swear to God I ain’t never gonna repent.”
The album was written immediately after Brendon’s recent stint in the Broadway musical ‘Kinky Boots’, and while it’s fair to say he’s always had a flair for theatrics, the experience has injected these tracks with unprecedented levels of sass and drama. Urie is clearly still relishing the role of the sonic bachelor, and it shows. On ‘Pray…’, it sounds like he’s having a total blast.