The latest offering of music from Panic! At the Disco leaves a lot to be desired. It has some of the magic that made Panic a household name, but most of the ideas that are brought forth on Viva Las Vengeance ultimately feel forced and not fully fleshed out. The album was produced by Jake Sinclair, Mike Viola and Brendon Urie, and when the material is on point, it can be a fun ride, yet too many of these songs don’t live up the high (high) hopes. The promotional cycle included releasing four singles, that tried to garner enough interest in the record that was coming off of one of Panic! At The Disco’s more successful albums in Pray for the Wicked, and yet early reactions to the title track, “Middle of a Breakup,” and “Local God” left a lot of fans nervous about the direction Brendon Urie would be taking on the band’s seventh studio album. What we’re ultimately left with is a missed opportunity for Urie and his production team to take Panic! At The Disco to the next level.
The album starts off with shaky footing, with an Elvis Costello-type guitar riff on the title track, that finds Urie singing in the pre-chorus and chorus of, “I don’t wanna be a diva / I just wanna be free / On a sofa with Sativa / Living the dream / Shut up and go to bed / She said, ‘Viva Las Vengeance!'” and it becomes clearer that some of this material feels a little thin in its lyrical approach with choruses that are either too repetitious or drag on too long. “Middle of a Breakup” does little to change the early mood set on the record with a chorus that seems to be repeated at least seven times throughout the song. A shaky pre-chorus of, “Oh shit, you’re kissin’ my neck, kissin’ my chest / Now I remember why we fell in love / Hot smoke, feels like we just met, lips I couldn’t kick / Honey, honey, you’re my favorite drug,” doesn’t do much to change the outlook for this track.
Things improve vastly on the album’s closest thing to a “hit” on “Don’t Let The Light Go Out.” What Urie does best on this song is provide a pure blast of 80’s nostalgia with the crowd-pleasing chorus of, “Who’s gonna drive me home tonight? / Who’s gonna argue ’till they win the fight? / You’re the only one that knows how to operate / My heavy machinery.” It’s no secret that of the four or so singles released early in the promotional cycle, this one appears to be getting the most love from radio stations. “Local God” follows and unfortunately falls back into the earlier trap of repeating the chorus way too many times to the point of near-annoyance.
Other songs in the middle sequencing like the failed youth anthem of “Star Spangled Banner,” has some very strange sounding drumming towards the end of the choruses, while “God Killed Rock And Roll” begins with a near Queen-esque introduction in the piano interlude to make it sound like a mini “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Unfortunately Urie’s lofty expectations for the songs never really match the overall production that comes through the speakers, and doesn’t really hit its intended target. In the latter, the Queen influence fades away in favor of a strange Cabaret verse before settling back into the groove of the main chorus. It’s a confusing journey, to say the least.
”Say It Louder” is basically a song built around the meme of “say it louder for the people in the back,” while “Sugar Soaker” plays off like a B-side song that could’ve easily been nixed from any previous Panic! At The Disco effort. “Something About Maggie” tries to re-capture some of the indie rock spirit of Pretty Odd, yet doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the material found on this album. Add in a cocktail of the spiraling “Sad Clown,” blended with a woe is me ballad of “All By Yourself” and chase it with “Do It To Death,” and you’re probably wondering where it all went astray on this LP.
Brendon Urie is an undeniably talented singer and songwriter, so it’s completely forgivable to have some of these songs not match up to his ultra-high expectations. But add this in with a hotly anticipated stadium tour this fall, and it’s a curious choice to make such a grandiose statement with Viva Las Vengeance the way that Panic! At the Disco did here. As big of a Panic fan I am, I can’t help but root for Urie to bounce back from these missteps to make his mid-career masterpiece next.