Panic! At The Disco - Vices & Virtues

Album cover
Emo, Pop-rock
Fueled By Ramen
Panic! At The Disco
Vices & Virtues
Panic! At The Disco - Vices & Virtues Review rating:
4
User rating:
Average: 3.9 (12 votes)

Riding on the coattails of their debut success A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, the subsequent Pretty Odd with its Beatles-esque guidance left the eyelined emomaniacs in quite a Panic indeed; it was the perfect formula for a sophomore slump, and ruffled the feathers of many fledgling fans despite reaching number 2 on the Billboard charts. Now, emo pop rockers Panic! At the Disco have reached a turning point in their career (along with the return of the exclamation point!). A drastic lineup change left Brendan Urie and Spencer Smith hard pressed to find the right way to return to form when Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker left due to “creative differences”. With Ross (now in his own project with Walker called The Young Veins) as their pervious songwriter, it opened the doors for Urie’s pen to hit the page, but raised questions for the somewhat disappearing fanbase: will this be just as “odd” as the last release, or will their quirky, catchy, and amiable traits return?

It turns out that the departure of said members is just what the duo needed. Recapturing the edgy pop of their debut without quite revisiting it, Vices and Virtues is a glorious return to form. With relentless 80’s-inspired beats and shiny production, this album is their poppiest and strongest album to date. The wild instrumentation and diverse vocal melodies are pure reflections of the influences impressed upon Urie and Smith since the split, dancing around styles as set down by the likes of The Beach Boys, A-Ha, and (according to Urie) The Arcade Fire to name a few. The heavy reliance on electronic music while throwing in instruments like marimbas and xylophones show a new and old side of P!ATD that is off-kilter, in a refreshing way. The dramatic and grandiose theatrics haven’t left, heard in tracks like “Hurricane” and “Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met…)”, but the duo have embarrassed the pop rock scene by spitting out several stellar hits that are upbeat and consistently memorable without feeling washed out.

For example, the album’s single-worthy opener “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” explodes with energy before slipping into the sly, gothic-like groove of “Let’s Kill Tonight”, and then flaring up again with “Hurricane”. And yet, there is no way one could disregard this album as generic and formulaic in construction. So much is going on within these ten songs that it warrants repeated listens. The chorus hooks will definitely grab the listener’s attention, but it’s the smartly layered, unorthodox instruments that make the songs hard to simply glaze over. The various intermezzos trailing behind some of the songs give way to retro vocal lines, performed soundly by Urie. And of course, the almost necessary acoustic piece “Always” adds a personal feel to an otherwise over-glossed production.

Perhaps the hardest thing to overcome when listening to Vices & Virtues is, quite simply put, the absence of Ross. Trading questions of identity and issues of alcoholism with a youthful venture into the sparks of love, it is hard to imagine that this is authentic, versus coming off as slightly forced. Moreover, will the pioneer Panic! fans, now six years older since being exposed to Fever, still identify with lyrics like “sentimental boy is my nom de plume”? Despite the personal touches in songs like “Sarah Smiles” (written by Urie for his girlfriend at the time Sarah Orzechowski) and “Calendar” (a retrospect look on the band’s split), the bright charm of their debut is not coupled with their biting wit of sarcasm.

Panic! At the Disco have seen their fanbase shrink considerably, but if anything is to be said about this third release, Vices & Virtues will more than win the hearts of many back. The stunning production and exciting hooks make for an overall hit, and the duo has shown the world that they are more than capable of recapturing their amiable debut sound while expanding their musical horizons.

1. The Ballad of Mona Lisa
2. Let's Kill Tonight
3. Hurricane
4. Memories
5. Trade Mistakes
6. Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)
7. Always
8. The Calendar
9. Sarah Smiles
10. Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met...)

Panic! At the Disco is currently a two-piece rock band hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada. The current members are vocalist Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith. Their debut album A Fever You Can't Sweat Out has sold over 2.2 million copies worldwide, 1.5 million of which were in the United States alone. This shot them into the international spotlight. Their sophomore album Pretty. Odd. debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200. ... read more

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