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Panic! At The Disco: Sinatra Swing And A Yearning For Deathcore

Monday, 11 January 2016 Written by Alec Chillingworth

You know Panic! At The Disco. You’ve heard the one about closing the goddamn door. And the one about it somehow being nine in the afternoon. Then there’s that time they covered Bohemian Rhapsody and it was actually really good.

Baroque pop, pop-punk, alt-rock and synthpop are just a few tags that still don’t really describe the band. You can leave the word ‘emo’ in the bin somewhere in 2005, too. Panic! have nothing to do with emo, or what certain braindead, bloodthirsty corners of the media once thought it was.

It’s 2016 and applying the term ‘emo’ to Panic! is like calling a selfie stick ‘really really cool, mate’. Brendon Urie, the band’s mouthpiece and resident multi-instrumentalist wizard, is about to unveil their fifth record, ‘Death Of A Bachelor’. It’s pretty odd.

“I had the intention of making a full Sinatra-esque album – full big band, Nelson Riddle arrangement, the whole deal – but then I realised that I don’t know how the fuck to do that,” he laughs, calling from somewhere that’s probably a lot sunnier, warmer and generally less bleak than England.

“Also, that’s Sinatra’s thing, so I’ve gotta do my own thing. I tend to jump from idea to idea and if I work too long on one thing, I have to start on another song. I always try to keep it moving so that the gears never really sit there and rust. Like, Queen are a band I’ve been idolising since I was a kid. Same with Sinatra. As a vocalist, he’s just phenomenal. And as for frontmen? It doesn’t get any better than Freddie Mercury. He was just the greatest of all time. So to shadow those greats and be able to use them for my own purposes was a truly fortunate experience.”

He’s banging on about Sinatra and Queen because ‘Death Of A Bachelor’ sounds like Sinatra throwing shapes in a nightclub. It sounds like Queen had they started up last summer with a shaven-headed Brian May tinkering on a synthesiser. Urie’s vocals hit perilous highs on opening track Victorious and Crazy = Genius swings with the strength of a chimpanzee full of magic beans.

It’s a cohesive, danceable, utterly ludicrous piece of work that betters 2013’s ‘Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!’ and benefits from Urie’s solo status. He’s now the only official member of the band, having played every instrument on the album and taken on the bulk of the songwriting, aided by a cadre of writers rather than a conventional band.

“I am Panic!, I’m the last dude left,” he says. “I basically hire my friends to tour with me and it’s awesome. It’s opened up this world where I can keep to myself in the studio, and that’s something I dreamed of as a kid. I always write on my own. Even when I’m with friends, I’ve always got my phone. If it’s a loud club, I go to the restroom and say a joke or phrase into my voicemail and use it as a lyric later, like: ‘I’m not as think as you drunk I am.’

“I start with an idea and then present it to my buddies. It’s funny that it’s been called a ‘team’ of writers, because I don’t think of them professionally. I know that sounds shitty, but they’re just my buddies. Like, we hang out and we’ll be swimming in the pool in my backyard and someone’ll just leave to record a vocal, then they’ll come back and we’ll just be drinking beers or whatever. It’s more an interactive hang-out where I’m always thinking about the next song.”

Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo has a writing credit on Victorious, for which he called Urie and “literally just hummed this thing and it was perfect”. That’s the sort of album we’re dealing with here: one where Rivers Cuomo, y’know, just calls up and hums his way into the conversation. Ridiculous. It’s not all been horsing around by the poolside, though, as the album’s title track proved to be a bit of a bastard for Urie to wrangle.

“I wrote the song on piano trying to do a Sinatra song, and I was getting so frustrated,” he says of the record’s lavish centrepiece. “I took a break, recorded the piano and vocals and then started fucking around with it, sampling my own vocals and chopping bits up. I put it over this beat and it worked so well, and I only had to move a couple of notes around. I just used that and it was the coolest thing, realising I could turn this jazz song into a hip-hop pop thing. So it’s nice to have those moments when you come back and realise it’s not over, the world’s not ending and it’s all gonna be OK.”

It really is going to be OK. Not only is the new record an absolute winner, but Panic! are playing to a sold-out Brixton Academy this week and, in May, will return to the UK to headline the annual Slam Dunk festivals. As Ron Burgundy would say, it’s kind of a big deal.

“We’re playing with New Found Glory and shit, that’s crazy,” says Urie with the sort of excitement usually reserved for kids at Disneyland or David Cameron at the petting zoo. “I’ve only been doing this 10 years and I’m playing with bands I grew up listening to. And headlining a festival? That’s insane. That blows my mind, dude. It’s the coolest thing. I’d play at 9am if Van Halen were headlining a show and I got to be on the same stage as them.”

Even for Slam Dunk – a festival renowned for its eclectic bookings within the alternative scene – Panic! stick out. They’re playing alongside the likes of Every Time I Die and Of Mice & Men. And that doesn’t faze Urie.

“I’m a big metal fan,” he says. “I was listening to Whitechapel the other day and they’re crazy good live. I watched a live video and goddamn, it sounds just like the album. I’ve always wanted to do a metal album. I want to do it so much that at the end of the show, I do this thirty second hardcore thing just to get it off my chest, because I’m dying to do a side project. I’ve just gotta find some people who are into it.”

And that’s Panic! At The Disco. You can be cynical and dismiss them as nothing more than a pop-punk band with a hyperactive imagination, but Urie is a musical Stretch Armstrong. Genre boundaries mean nothing to him and that’s why his band has never sounded dated or repetitive. Now somebody, somewhere, please set this man up with a deathcore band. It’d be fucking brilliant.

Panic At The Disco Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Tue January 12 2016 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton

Click here to compare & buy Panic At The Disco Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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