Panic! At the Disco - Viva Las Vengeance
(Fuelled by Ramen LLC)
For many people, the bands that they stumbled upon in their early adolescence are the ones that define their lives for the longest period of time. For me, that band was Panic! At the Disco- whilst other artists impacted my life, Panic!, being the one that started it all gave them more value. When 12 year old me listened to ‘Death of a Bachelor’ for the first time, it had an immense impact on my view of music and opened up a lot of pathways for me to explore new forms of music.
This is probably what makes the recent musical output so upsetting. As the members left the band for a variety of reasons until all that was left was lead singer Brendon Urie, the quality of the music declined. The intricate lyrics and strong musicality were clearly products of Ryan Ross (the guitarist and lead songwriter on ‘A Fever You Can't Sweat Out’ and ‘Pretty. Odd.’) , Dallon Weekes ( bass player and member for ‘Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die’) and Spencer Smith (the drummer who worked on the band’s first four albums before leaving in 2015). Now it is just Urie and producer Jake Sinclair, all of the strong elements of the band have evaporated and whilst it was easy to ignore the declining musical quality previously by clinging to the nostalgia of better albums that thin veneer seems to have diminished.
A good example of this is the lead single ‘Viva Las Vengeance’ which sees Urie lay bare all the worst parts of new Panic at the disco in the span of three minutes. The tacky and surface-level lyrics, though not as bad as the line “...keep your disco, give me T.rex, makeup sex in the middle of the breakup” on the song ‘Middle of a Breakup,’ fails to convey any real ideas form Urie. The song references Excalibur and the idea of running from anonymity as a means of vengeance but the lyrics never explore this in anything deeper than stating that “I don’t want to be anonymous”.The same also applies to the production which is incredibly bland and one note. The guitars and drums play the same few artificial riffs over and over again with all other instruments drowned out by the screeching piano is only heard occasionally, and the bass appears non-existent. This is all furthered through Urie’s singing which is continually straining into the upper registers in a way that is not impressive but grating as there is little deviation in his performance. For someone who had experience on Broadway and openly idolises singers like Frank Sinatra, Urie seems entirely unable to use his vocals effectively.
However, Brendon Urie’s voice is not the only thing that becomes more aggravating as the album progresses, there is also the immense repetition that begins to haunt the album. Like several other artists, Panic! at the Disco has taken to having the album flow as one long song with very minimal difference between each track – which is a clear indication of laziness. However whilst other albums that do this, such as Drake's recent album (‘Honestly,Nevermind’), are able to function as background music as you go about your day I can't really picture anyone playing this album at random points throughout their day, expect maybe to scare away wild animals with the screeches of Urie’s voice. Each time the same few guitar chords are gratingly played, and the few drumbeats that Urie, and Sinclair found are played obnoxiously loud over and over, you begin to wonder why does this album exist. It feels that after creating the first song, likely the title track, they just copied and pasted the entire album with very minor changes.
As I write this I am explicitly aware of the fact that I may come across as bitter; that one of the bands I loved as a teenager has changed and now I can’t cope. However, it feels more than that. Bands change and create more ‘mainstream’ music and sometimes it's brilliant (the recent work of Paramore and Hayley Williams are great examples of that)- but Panic! at the Disco, or more specifically Brendon Urie, did not do that. ‘Viva Las Vengeance’ feels like it is trying to be a lot of things- a cash grab, a statement, a means of artistic expression but when it is created solely by the lead singer who’s blasting his voice to smithereens with no semblance of what made the band great to begin with it fails to achieve any of those things - it fails to achieve anything, and that is probably the worst thing about this album.