Panic! At The Disco’s Viva Las Vengeance is Music Feeds’ Album of the Week. Tiana Speter reviews.
Rewind a decade and a half to when eyeliner, dark fringes and skinny jeans reigned supreme. Chances are either you, a friend or a family member got swept up in the commercial emo craze, spearheaded by bands like Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and Panic! at the Disco, who emerged brandishing angst, upbeat melodies and pop sensibilities.
But while the emo phenomenon soon petered out, many of the era’s biggest artists have kept going. Panic! at the Disco vocalist Brendon Urie now helms Panic! as a solo project, and 17 years after the project’s breakout debut, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, Urie takes Panic! to irresistible new heights on album number seven, Viva Las Vengeance.
Viva Las Vengeance (Warner)
Already an established pop icon with a four-octave tenor vocal range, Urie solidified his status as a formidable solo artist with Panic! at the Disco’s previous two releases, 2016’s Death of a Bachelor and 2018’s Pray for the Wicked. On Viva Las Vengeance, he fuses elements of classic rock and vintage production with just the right amount of contemporary sheen.
Viva Las Vengeance is a love letter to many of rock’s past and present greats. Urie channels KISS, the Beatles, Thin Lizzy and Queen, tying it all together with a rock opera twist. Tracks like ‘Something About Maggie’ and ‘God Killed Rock And Roll’ lean into Queen territory thanks to Urie’s swooning theatricality and falsetto, alongside some sparkling guitar work and well-timed harmonies.
Elsewhere, listeners are greeted by a pastiche of new and old that revels in moments of theatrical euphoria and introspection. There are lush, drive-in anthems, rapid-fire calls to arms, heart-breaking pop songs and flirtations with punk, glam, new wave, funk and full-blown rock’n’roll.
Panic! At The Disco – ‘Viva Las Vengeance’
While it’s unsurprising for Urie to emerge in 2022 with an extravagant album-length statement, the amount of introspection that energises Viva Las Vengeance is a surprise. Urie targets his own past and present, declaring throughout the album: “Keep your disco / Give me T. Rex” (‘Middle of a Breakup’); “We made it against all odds” (‘Say It Louder’); and “Take me to the limit / Nothing lasts forever, so I’ll give it a try” (‘Do It to Death’).
On track four, ‘Local God’, Urie details the early and, at times, less-than-rosy days of Panic! at the Disco. “We signed a record deal at seventeen,” he sings. “Hated by every local band / They say we never paid our dues / But what does that mean when money never changes hands?”
Viva Las Vengeance was recorded live to tape and the album stays unconventional, unpredictable and yet entirely approachable throughout; a fact that will either delight or displease fans, depending on whether they came here seeking the Panic! of old.
But forget the vaudeville, MySpace-era Panic! at the Disco you knew and let this collection of lovingly crafted, eclectic pop-rock songs swaddle you like a classic rock patchwork quilt.
Panic! At The Disco’s Viva Las Vengeance is out now.