Review Summary: I had high, high hopes.
They say rock is dead, I say it depends on where you’re looking. But you can’t fault someone for bringing it up, after all, there’s been a repeating trend the last half decade that has seen a lot of popular early 00s bands moving into a much more accessible playing field, leaving rock’s mainstream field a little spacious. Once recognised for their confident handling with instrumental simplicity and infectious melody, the adolescent years for bands like Fall out Boy and Panic! At the Disco had a derived and simplistic formula down to the tee, the difference between then and now though is it was once supported by distinct characteristics which made the bands feel and sound somewhat individualised. So, for anyone who was a fan of From Under the Cork Tree
or A fever You Can’t Sweat out
I send my condolences, they’ve ventured quite far away from their original selling points. As for me, I’ve casually dabbled with indifference to Fall Out Boy’s discography, enjoying sporadic tracks thoughout album releases leaving me to take them or leave them. Panic! At the Disco have created a far more impressive display in recent years however: loathing their earlier works with unabashed disdain, Brendon Urie’s voice embodied an aura of irritation which always chained down potential enjoyment for me – that was until Death of a Bachelor
came around. Unlike Fall Out Boy, the transition into pop felt far better suited to Urie’s voice, but it also helped their case that the songs on Death of a Bachelor
were of a higher crafting grade and with a better handling than the aforementioned band’s ham-fisted attempts. Out with guitars, in with synths and a brass section. Their solid, free-spirited party anthems displayed a new facet of excellence for Brendon’s vocals and helped them evolve to a new and exciting level creatively.
So, after 2016’s impressive attempts I have to say they had my attention for this, but after hearing the thing in full, it has a lot to answer for. Trimming the fat off the description, Pray for the Wicked
is basically more of the same, only with the added dynamic of Urie and the band frequently dropping the ball. Death of a Bachelor
is far from a perfect album, but it succeeds more with its goals than it does fumble them. I’ll give Pray for the Wicked
its credits though, it wastes little time in revealing its intentions. It took as long as the opening track to discover a dense focus on low-brow lyrics and lazy repetition. “(Fu*k A) Silver Lining” is a wide awakening on showing just how fine the line is between screwing up and delivering the goods. The record likes to hide behind modern day production trinkets, which I’ll be open in saying makes everything sound great – big
and larger than life. The horn introduction to “High Hopes” makes you feel like you’re stood in a parade of ‘fun times’, before throwing the kitchen sink at you with Brendon’s catchy, well delivered hooks and soaring melodies as the orchestra, rattling drum clicks and twinkling synths work to cover all bases. And for what it's worth, it’s a solid track. But it’s also a rare example of when the album plays the game straight. Too often is it made out all these expensive toys are basically support blankets to mask lazy lyrics, awful millennial backing chants and frequently persistent trap influences. “Dancing’s Not A Crime”, “Say Amen (Saturday Night)” and “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” tap into the commonly hedonistic tropes of modern day pop, and god does it come out forced. That’s not mentioning a song like “One of the Drunks” which has the finesse of a bull in a china shop as it tries to amalgamate the band’s recently bombastic orchestrations with these horrifically out of place electronics; making it about as pleasant as sticking your hand on a hop set to full.
It’s a shame really, I can hear potential with some of the elements here: Brendon does have an impressive vocal range, and on “Roaring 20s” you can actually appreciate it; despite the tonal issues with “One of the Drunks” the funky, galloping chorus is extremely infectious; and the clever use of slowing and building up “King of the Clouds” – as well as its Queens of the Stone Age-esque use of guitar effects – makes for a half-decent highlight here. But like most things with this album, it’s nowhere near as developed as it is on Death of a Bachelor
. A lot of the key problems I have with Panic! At the Disco’s music resurfaces here, and with the shallow approach to the music, sloppy style clashes and irritatingly generic lyrics that talk about success, following your dreams and getting drunk, it damages the final product exponentially. It’s also a disturbing predicament to be in when you hear one of the singles for this on the radio and are unsure if it is Fall Out Boy or Panic! At the Disco. But at this point the two groups have moved into such similar spots, and have equally the same problems, it’s become a little amusing and difficult to differentiate the two these days. Basically, this is a pretty big step back from the largely enjoyable Death of a Bachelor
. Instead of taking all the good qualities from its former, Pray for the Wicked
does the opposite; feeling rushed, watered down and desperately lacking in its own personality.
FORMAT//EDITIONS: CD/̶/̶D̶I̶G̶I̶T̶A̶L̶/̶/̶V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶/̶/̶V̶A̶R̶I̶O̶U̶S̶ ̶B̶U̶N̶D̶L̶E̶S̶
PACKAGING: Standard jewel case.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://panicatthedisco.com/