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October 2021

Escape has never felt more inviting than on Panic! At The Disco's 'Pray For The Wicked'

★★★★
Escape has never felt more inviting than on Panic! At The Disco's 'Pray For The Wicked'
Published: 9:53 pm, June 20, 2018

Brendon's time on Broadway has galvanized the performer within.

Label: Fueled By Ramen
Released: 22nd June 2018
Rating: ★★★★

Panic! At The Disco didn't so much as burst onto the scene with their debut album, as create it. It's always been a big ask for Brendon to fully escape the shadow of ‘A Fever…' but over the past few years, he's started to craft a new wave.

‘Too Weird To Live' saw him return home larger than life and add a neon tint to those lived in fantasies. ‘Death Of A Bachelor' found him the last man standing, something to prove and something to say, he embraced his history and headed towards a future. ‘Pray For The Wicked' sees him dancing in the now. "To the old, and to the new. We dedicate this song to you," starts the hyper-positive skip of ‘(Fuck A) Silver Lining'. Unapologetic, boisterous and relentlessly energetic, it's the perfect introduction to an album that refuses to slow down. Panic! At The Disco certainly haven't.

His time on Broadway has galvanized the performer within. Live, Brendon has always been the spotlight, but now the songs have that same showmanship. ‘Roaring 20s' high kicks and heads for the big finish, undercutting the party throwdown with an emotional edge while ‘Dancing's Not A Crime' is full of pomp, promise and feel good fanfare. Elsewhere ‘Hey Look Ma, I Made It' is full of untouchable pride. Golden cathedrals and Eden paradise, it celebrates trust in yourself.

Rather than try to outrun his history, Panic! At The Disco use it to give this present more weight. ‘High Hopes' hits harder knowing Brendon has always been a dreamer. Even now, glittering and doused in starshine, he promises "they haven't seen the best of me." There's a contagious hope living on the bright side. The stranger crusaders done good, escape has never felt more inviting.

‘One Of The Drunks' and ‘Old Fashioned' keep the spirits high, numbing any pain by keeping the glass half full and the party neverending. It's the sort of excess we've come to expect. Across ‘Pray For The Wicked', the known is dialled up. Brendon committing to each idea for three and a bit minutes before moving on, each song is fully realised, coloured in and celebrated. There's still room for surprise though; this is Panic! At The Disco after all. It's how they stay excited.

‘The Overpass' goes uptown with its funk, a scattergun of quick glances, quicker moves and rapidly beating hearts while ‘King Of The Clouds' embraces the crisp lines of the nineties before someone speeds up the disc. Under the silver lining though, Brendon once again chews over the fact he doesn't trust anyone else. "I don't feel anything at all' he cries, trying to make it look like a deliberate victory. "I keep searching," he promises.

‘Dying In LA' fast forwards Brendon to an unknown future. Surrounded by dreams that came true, stars that are equals and the proof that nobody can put limits on what you can do, the closing track, like the rest of the record, flickers between optimism and defeat. ‘Pray For The Wicked' is a record of belief. It's about making wildest dreams a reality and then living within them. There's sadness in the victory, but resilience to what comes next. Ali Shutler

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