Review Summary: Panic puts the exclamation point on their triumphant return from 2008's disappointing album "Pretty. Odd."
Panic! At the Disco has had a pretty tumultuous three years. They dropped the !
from their name, scaled down a lot of their touring to a more intimate setting, and overhauled their sound by embracing a classic rock oriented approach that many critics accused of being far too similar to that of The Beatles. Following Pretty. Odd.
’s lukewarm reception, bassist Jon Walker and guitarist/primary lyricist Ryan Ross left the band citing creative differences, scraping Panic down to its very core while leaving front man Brendan Urie and drummer Spencer Smith to carry on as a duo under the band’s name. Trials of this nature would be enough to challenge any band, but in the face of heavy criticism and mounting pressure to return to the musical style of their debut, Panic! at the Disco prove to us that they have weathered the storm – without caving in to expectations. Vices & Virtues
is an effort completely distinct from both of their previous releases, and while it may not be their best album to date, it establishes them as a durable band that is able to survive even when the going gets rough.
One thing that listeners will notice almost immediately is the abundance of strings, bells, and samplings that have returned to Panic’s sound. They don’t go quite as far as to reintroduce the whole disco/dance thing they had going on in AFYCSO, but that might be for the best in terms of establishing Vices & Virtues
as its own beast. ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘Nearly Witches’ are prime examples of this, with the former featuring an eerie piano opening and the latter possessing a children’s choir and circus-themed synthesizer. If there is one thing we have learned about Panic! At the Disco, it is that they are the most fun and enjoyable when they let their eccentricities show. Luckily, it seems that Urie and Smith were equally aware of this, because the album is absolutely filled to the brim with quirky moments – and Vices & Virtues
only stands to benefit from it. ‘Hurricane’ is another standout track, with an incredibly infectious intro consisting of a distant synthesizer and a pounding exchange between drumming and handclaps. The promise of the opening minute is fulfilled by what is easily the record’s catchiest chorus, thus solidifying the song as one of the album’s best. In fact, just going down the track list reveals very little filler, as ‘Memories’ becomes more and more memorable
the longer it plays on, ‘Trade Mistakes’ swells with violins and Urie’s most urgent sounding vocals, ‘Always’ fits the bill as an enjoyable ballad sans the cheese, and so on until the album’s very end. The only exception is ‘Ready to Go’, which while it isn’t terrible, it also doesn’t contribute much of anything unique from a musical or lyrical perspective (making it one of Panic’s more forgettable songs). Otherwise, Urie and Smith keep on chugging for ten straight noteworthy tracks, something that Panic! at the Disco was unable to do on Pretty. Odd.
Perhaps the most impressive feat Panic! At the Disco accomplishes is the diversity between those ten tracks. Every song is distinguishable from the other nine, offering up a totally weird synth section, strings, or an earth-shattering chorus to make it recognizable and totally able to stand on its own. From the very beginning, the termination and commencement of songs is recognizable (they don’t always “flow together”), but they carry on in such a fashion that each ensuing track feels like a natural progression from the one that just ended. Naturally, Vices & Virtues
is all the more listenable – giving it an outstanding flow and an overall cohesiveness that makes it both an easy and pleasurable listen every time. The departure of Ryan Ross was cause for concern in the lyrics department, but despite the turnover from Ross to Urie, Panic maintains the high standards that fans as well as the band members themselves have come to expect. The clever sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek statements from their debut appear to be a thing of the past, which while disappointing, is salvaged by Urie’s ability to effectively bridge the gap with lines like, “I believe that half the time I am a wolf among the sheep, gnawing at the wool over my eyes” and “I'm a fly that's trapped in a web / But I'm thinking that my spider’s dead / Lonely, lonely little life / I could kid myself in thinking that I'm fine.” The lyrics seem to have found a happy medium between the gloomy pessimism of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out
and the peppy optimism of Pretty. Odd.
; and like the rest of Vices & Virtues
, it stands as a characteristic totally unique to this record
Panic! At the Disco’s third LP puts a strong foot forward in the right direction. It may not have everything
, but it possesses the complex musical arrangements of Pretty. Odd.
and the strange quirks of AFYCSO, along with a slew of qualities that are one-hundred percent fresh. The band’s annoying infatuation with The Beatles is over, which should be cause for a collective sigh of relief among fans everywhere. It doesn’t quite reach Fever
’s level of catchiness and intrigue, but it comes damn close in just ten songs that are virtually filler-free. In relation to the material that Panic has released so far, Vices & Virtues
is the best of both worlds, and it will be sure to please fans everywhere regardless of taste or preference.