By Sheroog Kubur, September 13 2022—
The emo phase is one I know all too well — a time when Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance were the most alternative bands you could hear and wearing black eyeliner was a religious practice. Panic! at the Disco was certainly part of this tirade, and although most adults can confidently say they’ve moved on from this point in their life, there are some who still latch onto the memories. In an act of pleasing my inner emo teenage self, I revisited Panic! at the Disco’s music ahead of the release of the new record, Viva Las Vengeance.
Despite the insulting introduction, Panic! at the Disco, at one point, made good music. Every album had an undeniable charm to them, sonically representing their evolution as a band, then duo, then solo act. They made records that varied enough to stay exciting but were consistent enough to keep their signature flair. The lyrics were witty, the instrumentals were dynamic and the incorporation of different musical styles and techniques were bold. At the very least, if the music was going to decline in quality for one reason or another, listeners could be guaranteed that the album would be an intriguing listen.
As a solo act, Brendon Urie has released projects that aren’t bad — Death of a Bachelor is widely regarded as one of his stronger works, containing beloved songs that old and new fans alike can agree are some of his best. It managed to maintain the colour that Panic! At the Disco were known for without feeling like Urie was grasping at former glory. Viva Las Vengence is his third album as a soloist, meaning Urie has had the time to marry his individuality with the expectations that come with the Panic! at the Disco name. Unfortunately, this project doesn’t do that at all. Where Viva Las Vengeance falls flat is that it relies heavily on something that listeners already know. We know that Urie has an impressive range and we know he’s a good performer, but what else does the record offer?
Decline in lyricism is something that has bothered fans for years, claiming the band was only as good as whoever was the principal writer. However, in Urie’s defense, he can get away with mediocre lyrics on the basis that the music was fun. The lyrics can sometimes be cringey and novice, but his delivery made it so that they were still engaging. He played with his range and skills, giving life to songs that might’ve been otherwise a miss. Going into the record, I wasn’t expecting it to be masterfully crafted or meticulously planned out — I was expecting it to find a couple tracks that would amuse me.
Looking past the distasteful and juvenile lyrics and strained vocals, Viva Las Vengeance’s greatest sin is that it’s boring. While early Panic! at the Disco were able to give a unique personality to each track, ranging from verbose storytelling to brazen vocal dynamics, using each element of musicality to create a persona, this new album lacks that severely. The songs either feel like a desperate attempt to rehash the glory of early Panic! At the Disco or a Queen interpretation gone awry.
There are clear attempts at creating a persona for the record — like the opening of the titular “Viva Las Vengeance” being a reflection on Urie’s career — but it’s negated by the poor delivery and sonic dissonance. Songs like “Local God” and “Say It Louder” are meant to be tongue in cheek responses to the public perception of the new Panic! at the Disco but don’t have a strong enough presence to be interesting. Admittedly, there are some lyrics that are reminiscent of good song writing, like Urie asking “Wonder if you had the chance to sell your soul, did you ever get your money back?” but it’s once again hidden among annoying arrogance and poor singing. Each song sounds more or less the same, and, more insultingly, there’s nothing interesting about what’s being copied.
Panic! At the Disco hasn’t been the same band that audiences fell in love with in 2005 for years now. Assuming that this record would give us that nostalgia factor meant that it was fighting a losing battle. That being said, the Urie era of Panic! At the Disco hasn’t been terrible either. He showed that he knows what made Panic! At the Disco so beloved and pays respect to it with Death of a Bachelor, but has quickly forgotten his roots. As a solo project, Viva Las Vengeance would have been more passable, but by using the Panic! At the Disco name, a precedent was set. One that expects grandeur and personality. Unfortunately, this album only shows that the death of the bachelor was also the death of Panic! At the Disco — or at least the version that fans fell in love with.
Sheroog’s Recommendation: Listen to Vices & Virtues instead.