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Album Review: Panic! At The Disco ‎’Pray For The Wicked’

A theatrical experience.

Tim Coffman

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Panic at the Disco has been one of the premier acts in pop rock for the past decade. However, singer Brendon Urie’s shot to the top hasn’t been the most gradual ascent undertaken. 

While the first incarnation of the band was a group effort, many lineup changes have led to Urie becoming the sole creative force behind Panic at the Disco for the past few years. While Brendon  was able to prove himself on the group’s last outing, 2016’s Death of a Bachelor, how does his new release hold up by comparison?

This album shows Brendon playing to his strengths with many vocal theatrics spread throughout the tracks listing such as the undeniably infectious “Say Amen (Saturday Night)” and the smash hit “High Hopes.”

There are also songs that have an overly theatrical aesthetic to their presentation such as “Roaring 20s” and the emotional powerhouse of an album closer, “Dying in LA.” 

The experiences that Urie has had on Broadway  in the past few years have certainly bled into his songwriting prowess. Album cuts like “Old Fashioned” and “King of the Clouds” also bring jazzier elements into the pop rock formula that Brendon has cultivated for himself.

While this album   is a delight to listen to, there are a few detractors from the overall experience: Throughout the album, the production seems to be a bit questionable in places, with many songs  trying to incorporate these new influences into a more electronic aesthetic.

While Panic have certainly made some interesting forays into electronic music on previous albums, I feel that  this does not work in the album’s service, particularly on Brendon’s vocals. Brendon Urie’s voice is one of the finest natural voices in recent memory, and to listen to it being mutilated, albeit subtly, is a bit disconcerting.

The album also does have a bit of filler, like on “The Overpass” or “One of the Drunks” which may sound different in a live setting, but overall they seem rather pedestrian on the record.   

This album tends to be rather lopsided for my taste in terms of consistency in song quality.

While some songs are bound to be party favorites, there are some that seem to be stalling a bit in the track listing. For anyone who is mildly interested in Panic at the Disco, I would not use this record as your jumping-on point. However ,the theatricality of some songs is something that you won’t want to miss out on.

Panic is a much different band than the one who belted out “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” over a decade ago  and it’s good to still seem them that they are taking musical risks and gaining some success as a result.

While this album is not as good as Death of a Bachelor or early triumphs like A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, the album does leave me looking forward to what other tricks Brendon has up his sleeve for future releases. While by no means a masterpiece, this record is still a solid entry in Panic at the Disco’s catalog

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Tim picked up the guitar at 10 years old and never looked back. He has been writing about music since 2011 and has loved every single minute of it. Music is his MO every day and he will do whatever he can to make sure that he's involved with it every day of his life.

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