Since emerging in the early 2000s, Panic! At The Disco has asserted itself as a project unafraid to change lanes. Originally a pop-punk band when debut album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out released in 2005, the music and line-up have shifted monumentally over the years, finally becoming a solo venture for lead singer Brendon Urie. As the sole artist, Urie slowly moved into a poppier and mainstream direction, culminating in a US number one hit with High Hopes. Now, after four years, he’s returned with yet another shift in style.
Opener and title track Viva Las Vengeance sets the tone of the record immediately. Stripped back instrumentation, made up of staccato guitar passages and driving drums, are infused with synths rather than overpowered by them. Urie’s voice soars over all else, as is to be expected. His vocal ability has become the project’s trademark, and it’s instantly recognisable as he enters the song, and the album. Middle Of A Breakup is a song that could have been at home on the band’s 2011 album Vices & Virtues. An upbeat guitar line and bouncing synth begin the track, with Urie singing of trying to make a clear break with a significant other, but ultimately getting caught up in the intimacy. The chorus erupts with a punk energy that permeates the entire record.
The story at the heart of Local God, about the individuals that become well known in their own circles, is a sweet one. Part ode to the ones left behind, and part story of Panic’s own rise, there’s a hint of The Cure in the way the guitars play the melody, and in its bittersweet lyrics. Star Spangled Banger is equal parts sing-along rock perfection and doo-wap song, beginning with empowering group vocals and powerful drums, before transitioning into a finger-snapping verse, complete with harmonised guitars. It’s songs like this and God Killed Rock and Roll that show Urie’s creative flare, melding genres cohesively. The latter is a gorgeous tune, bursting into life with a choir backing lines about your favourite artists watching over you from posters on bedroom walls, and pulling you up when you’re down. A Brian May-esc solo breaks up the piano led ballad, before the song turns full rock and roll in the second half.
Viva Las Vengeance is a step back towards a territory that fans of Panic! At The Disco may remember more fondly. Its stripped-back nature complement the expert story-telling of the lyrics, and show that Urie still isn’t afraid to change up the his sound. The album is a cohesive and creative journey, and is a breath of fresh air in terms of rock music. A masterclass from a man who’s talent seems to know no end.
Writer and Musician, Ryan Bulbeck has been published with a number of online publications, and has worked with a myriad of great artists, both as a performer, and as a producer. His most recent band The 295 are still active, playing shows around the UK.