Friday, 22 June 2018

Panic! At The Disco Pray for the Wicked Album Review: "Superb From Start to Finish"

Two things that are extremely difficult to believe - that this is Panic! At The Disco's sixth album and they've been around since 2004. That's 14years worth of music. In that time most of the bands and Artists that burst onto the scene at the same time as them have long disappeared. The secret to ever lasting success? Constantly re-inventing yourself.

That's exactly what Panic have been doing over the years and it's kept their music fresh. When you listen to this album it's hard to believe this band were around at the height of emo rock. I had high hopes for the album the second "Say Amen (Saturday Night)" finished, and they have more than exceeded those expectations.

In this day and age it's extremely hard to listen to an album that doesn't contain any filler or run the risk of generic lyrics, with music that wants to go somewhere but is held back, and in that respect "Pray for the Wicked" is completely flaw free.

Much like The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers, there is a lot said about Brendon Urie. Over the years he has made the odd problematic comment and songs like Girls/Girls/Boys haven't exactly helped his cause. But if there's one thing I like in musicians, it's those who can laugh at themselves, their public persona's and basically lay their soul bear.

'Fuck A) Silver Lining' is as perfect an album opener as you can get and sets the tone magnificently for what's in store. It's a funky, pop-rock number. It's very reminiscent of The Killer's hit song 'The Man' in the sense of Brendon basically giving no fucks, owning who he is, and letting everyone bask in his greatness. Sure the lyrics are a bit repetitive, but that's the whole point of the song. As human beings we all want to be the very best that we can be. We all encounter obstacles and it's our job to overcome that obstacle and find the silver lining.

'Say Amen (Saturday Night)' is a song that is just as fun as the video that accompanies it, keeps the tempo of 'Silver Lining' and to say this song allows Brendon to show off his vocal strengths would be an understatement. That high note at the end is nothing short of magnificent. The song in itself sees Brendon reconciling his career with his Mormon roots. He has admitted in interviews that he isn't really religious anymore, but that never stops up from looking back at the lessons that we have learnt, and using them to propel us forward.

'Hey Look Ma, I Made It'
is the first song on the album that can be somewhat classed as a ballad. The tempo is very much knocked down a few pegs from the albums opening songs, and is Brendon taking an extremely tongue in cheek look back on his career. The music on this song is absolutely delicious and I'm extremely glad that Brendon was able to make good use of it, because it really would've been a crime to have generic, repetitive lyrics accompanying this. The story of the song though isn't anything new, as it's almost a rite of passage that as soon as you've sold a couple million records, you look back on yourself, your career, feeling extremely proud of yourself and those around you joining the party.

'High Hopes' is another beautiful song that is once again looking back on the journey Brendon's been through to get where he is. Having this song on the album next to 'Hey Look Ma, I Made It' could've ended quite badly, with the risk of feeling deja vu as the two songs share the same type of message but it's the sign of a great musician when you can evoke the same type of wondrous feeling without it feeling boring.

Without a doubt though my favourite track on the album is 'Roaring 20's'.

Music wise it really does sound like a song out of the 1920's/30's and the lyrics mirror that. Brendon has revealed that this song was about his experience playing Charlie Price in the Broadway musical Kinky Boots. That's not a musical I've ever heard of, but this song has very much been on repeat and will continue to be so for many months to come. I again absolutely love the climax, particularly the way that the music builds and the backing vocals collide with Brendon's vocals so effortlessly. Whenever backing vocals are used to boost the sound of the main artist, there is always the risk that they'll basically overpower and drown out the main vocalist or even worse, be so weak that the power evaporates. That thankfully doesn't happen here and I wouldn't be against this song popping up in a TV show or advert soon because it has that feel for it.

'Dancing's Not A Crime' is another song I wouldn't be surprised to see feature on a TV show or advert soon because again, it has that feel to it. It's a wonderfully feel good, to an extent summer song and as soon as you hit play you feel joyful. The lyrics are all about having fun. The Music makes you want to have fun, and dance your absolute socks off.

Where 'Dancing's Not A Crime' is all about the feel good factor 'One of the Drunks' is about the consequences of the feel good. As a society we are all about downing the champagne, getting drunk and waking up the next morning with no recollection of the night before. At its height it feels like a great emotion but when you're dealing with the aftermath it's anything but. Musicians more than anyone else in the entertainment industry very much struggle with sobriety. Every night is a party for them regardless of whether they want it or not, and it's not really a surprise that so many musicians do struggle with sobriety having had the party lifestyle basically forced upon them. It's extremely difficult to break out of that bubble and enjoy the party without over-indulging in the party and losing yourself. 'One of the Drunks' explores parts of that without being too heavy.

With some albums as we slowly make our way to the climax there tends to be a slow down in pace. Not here. 'The Overpass' kicks the tempo right back up with another funky number that mixes genres effortlessly. The song in itself sees Brendon reminiscing over a relationship that has since ended, but he retains hope that things can be worked out and that his love will meet him at the overpass. 'King of the Clouds' is my second favourite song on the album. If you've read our latest New Music Friday then you'll already know my thoughts on it, and I won't bore you with repeating myself too much, but I will reiterate that it is an absolutely magnificent track from start to finish and the only crime is that at 2:41 seconds long it's one of the shortest tracks on the album. I very much need the instrumental version of this track to be released.

The second to last song on the album is of course 'Old Fashioned' which once again sees Brendon reminiscing over yesteryear. This song reminds me in a lot of ways of OneRepublic's fantastic 'Kids'. As we do grow older we do start to forget our youth as adult life takes over, and it is always important to remember where we came from and most importantly the fun we used to have. On a cold, dark, winter night the memory of playing a round of tag with your friends and swinging a bottle of coke does a lot to warm the heart.

Closing the album is 'Dying in LA'. There's no doubting it's quite an emotional ballad, but I never like when an album is closed off with a ballad. Sure it is quite fitting, but I feel as though when an album is powering forward it should be allowed to do that all the way through and not have the tempo lowered just because it's finishing. That criticism aside 'Dying in LA' describes the struggle of life in LA chasing your dreams. It's certainly not something for the faint hearted as it can take years and years for you to make a break through, with a lot of stop starts. Such a simple song that is powered by the piano and Brendon's vocals alone does work quite well in getting the point of the song across.

Like with any album and indeed any song that is ever made, there are gonna be those that absolutely love this, those with mixed feelings and those who absolutely hate it. "Pray for the Wicked" certainly sees another evolution musically and lyrically from Brendon, who is now the sole member of Panic! He's very much grown up from those emo days of the 00's, and he's completely owning it. "Pray for the Wicked" is filled with replay-ability, with not a filler track in sight. The only critic that could possibly be given is that some of the songs are quite short. Sure the album is 11 songs long which by today's standards is quite long, but I would've preferred not to have so many songs coming in under 3 minutes. A counter argument for this could be that short songs make sure to keep the filler at bay, as there's really nothing worse than having to listen to a 6 minute song that could've quite easily ended at the 3 minute mark.

Is "Pray for the Wicked" Panic's best album yet? Quite possibly so. It's certainly their most grown-up album.