June 18, 2018 Panic! At The Disco – Pray For The Wicked (Album Review)
He is in quite a dither at some club, and someone needs to help Brendon Urie out! Or, well, perhaps things aren’t really worth panicking about, as Pray For The Wicked, the newest offering from Panic! At The Disco, arrives on June 22, 2018, thanks to Fueled by Ramen/DCD2 Records.
At this point in time, Panic! At The Disco is the guise of musician Brendon Urie, a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Las Vegas, Nevada. Although, fans know that the project did in fact start as a band in 2004. As a quartet – featuring Urie, Ryan Ross, Spencer Smith, and Brent Wilson – the quartet released their debut album, 2005’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, which was a massive success thanks to singles like the hugely-popular “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” Four additional albums, including 2008’s Pretty.Odd and 2016’s Death of a Bachelor, followed and only served to expand Panic! At the Disco’s star status, though, ultimately the band would come down to the last man standing: Urie.
Despite these major line-up kerfuffles, over the past fourteen years, Panic! At The Disco have continued to fight the good fight, touring alongside the likes of Weezer, Blink-182, Death Cab for Cutie, Fall Out Boy (whose Pete Wentz originally signed the band), Dashboard Confessional, and Motion City Soundtrack. Awards have followed, including a Grammy Award nomination, and wins at the MTV Video Music Awards, TMF Awards, and MTV Asia Awards. A darling at Alternative Press, Urie has won multiple awards from the publication, as well as the Rock Sound Readers Poll Award for Video of the Year (“Emperor’s New Clothes”) in 2015.
Ready for his next album cycle, Urie is now prepared to present the 11-track Pray For The Wicked, which he co-produced with Jake Sinclair (Weezer, Fall Out Boy). For his sixth full-length studio offering, Urie sashays his way through a world that is heavily dipped in the golden façade of the roaring ‘20s. With Flappers and imagery worthy of The Great Gatsby, Urie weaves a Pop opus that is brilliantly modern yet deliciously nostalgic, a scrumptiously schizophrenic blend that is genius fun.
It is just cherries on top when Pray For The Wicked kicks off to the funky dance jam of “(Fuck A) Silver Lining,” which blends some truly classic musical orchestrations (thanks to a sampling of The Dells’ “Oh, What A Night”) with a steady, almost Hip Hop beat and Urie’s signature vocals. Ultimately, it’s a track that is truly sonically bipolar and yet, somehow, it works perfectly as an introduction to this bizarrely diverse collection. As if to answer an age old debate, comparisons between Urie and Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump are never more twin-terrific than on the explosive choruses of “Say Amen (Saturday Night).” Here, chopped vocals, brass, electronics and emphatic beats weave around the vocals to create a true hallelujah to the Panic! At The Disco sound, one that offers up the lyrical origins of the album’s title. Also, that extended, soaring falsetto note? Hot damn!
Next, everything is coming up aces or, well, maybe not. There is an irony to the celebratory “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” (“I’m a hooker selling songs and my pimp’s a record label”), a funky triumph that layers a million different sounds and styles and comes out dancing. Seeking to inspire greatness, “High Hopes” is a catchy, anthemic go-getter that has already been used by the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights. Afterward, Urie goes for more of a swinging’ sashay on “Roaring 20s” (“roll me like a blunt ‘cause I want to go home”), a song about age and not era. So, you know, no Flappers need apply, even if this would be the perfect offering to help them get their Charleston on.
Chopped vocals provide a complement on the massive, multi-layered “Dancing’s Not a Crime” (“…unless you do it without me”), a song that you absolutely cannot not dance to. Whatever they tell you, your feet are going to move to this one! Meanwhile, there is more of a suave sensuality to the moody, drunk-adaisical “One of the Drunks,” an electronic inebriation that laments dancing with your demons in the depths of Grey Goose.
Big band meets frenetic energy on the cinematic orchestration of “The Overpass,” something that appreciates yesterday while going wild in the city streets, while “King of the Clouds” is a massive, multi-layered experience that feels like a flight through the eras, arriving at the present but lingering in the past. Next, there is a push to remember your youth, let go of pressure, harness your inner booze-hound, and celebrate this all with the hoppin’ hipness of “Old Fashioned,” the best of the times of your life. Ultimately, the collection ends with the piano ballad “Dying in LA,” an ode to the City of Angels and her ability to swallow up and spit out the very best of us. A face in a sea of dreamers, everyone in Los Angeles is seeking something and not all will end their journey in triumph.
There is a liberal use of chopped vocals, old-fashioned sounds, massive, multi-layering, and celebratory libations that make Pray For The Wicked the perfect introduction to summer 2018. If you can envision The Great Gatsby tossing her beads at 2018 Mardi Gras, celebrating with Cristal, and Urie as the Master of Ceremonies at this circus of hip, well, then, you are on track for an understanding and giddy embrace of Pray For The Wicked. It might sound bizarrely intriguing, and it is, but it is all in the name of a good song – or eleven! Shining our dancing shoes and sippin’ Old-Fashioneds, CrypticRock give Panic! At The Disco’s Pray For The Wicked 5 of 5 stars.