Review Summary: Although "Vices & Virtues" ultimately falls flat from a lack of inspiration, there's enough fun-factor here to warrant repeated listens.
It’s admirable, really, how Panic! At the Disco have seemed to have kept it together these past couple of years. After all, had they broken up, who could blame them" Not too long after the release of their second full length, Pretty. Odd.
(and album which received a fairly lukewarm response), the band literally split into two, with Panic! losing their longtime guitar and bass players. With the departure of Ryan Ross and John Walker In 2009, all that was left was the humble duo of Brendan Urie and Spencer Smith.--the word “uncertainty” never fit so well. However, if Vices & Virtues
is any indicator, the future looks fairly bright indeed.
When Panic! came (read: exploded) onto the scene in the mid 2000’s, they were a breath of fresh air into the stagnant “Fueled By Ramen” label, injecting life and fervor into a rather uninspired crowd. Yet two years later, Pretty. Odd
proved to be a strange departure from the electro-infused pop that had made them a household name. Featuring simpler song structure, and a more traditional “rock” sound, the album depicted a new direction in regards to the band’s sound, and Vices & Virtues
Yet I can’t feel as though this stripped down sound has hurt the band in some way. Yes, trimming the saccharine coated techno/pop has made the band more accessible, but at the cost of the character and personality that was bursting from the seams. This is where Vices & Virtues
really strikes out--it’s boisterously, epically, and irrevocably flat, bland, and uninspired. The snappy lyricism and quirky style have been completely eradicated, leaving a fairly bare bones product, that neither challenges nor intrigues the listener. You wont hear Urie singing about overheard scandalous gossip, or a dance party turned tragedy, instead, you get by the books love songs sung not so cleverly, lacking the “cute“ tongue-in-cheek moments. For every off-kilter colorful line, Urie throws out an “[i]And it’s killing me inside,” lathering on the melodrama and cheese.
Musically, however, Panic! have brought some of their most catchy and fun material to date, which is saying quite a lot. Mixing the bombastic nature of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out
, and the straight forward classic rock of Pretty. Odd.
, Vices & Virtues
finds a nice middle ground. It’s not erupting with the erratic styles found in the former, nor is it gliding along with the class and poise of the latter. Instead, the album deftly settles into a sweet spot, marrying the two sides that have been Panic! these past several years . Yet despite the wonderful blending of the two, Vices & Virtues
manages to be painfully “simple.” Quite literally, the album you hear in the first run-through will be the album that you hear the second, third, and fourth times. There’s nothing here to really unravel, as Panic’s simplistic delivery has made an album devoid of any real complexities. While it’s true that nothing they have ever done has ever really been overly complex
, it was fun to try and unwrap what Urie was actually singing about, or find your way around the far more intricate layers of instrumentals. All in all, the album comes across as far too juvenile and basic--pop-rock, not a la mode.
That being said, what comes with the overly simplistic is the overly catchy, and Panic! has brought the hooks in droves. You’ll have no problems jumping into “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” and “Ready To Go” over and over again, belting out each chorus line in joviality. Yes it’s silly, but it’s also fun as hell, especially when the jazzy trumpets and Danny Elfman-esque strings get going. The guys clearly enjoyed making each colorful track, and it truly does shine through, making for a thoroughly enjoyable record, despite its brazen simplicity. Urie’s voice is still just as charming as ever, and honestly sounds more matured as well, giving a nice warmth to his already impressive vocals. It’s varied as well, with the thoughtful, acoustic guitar “Always,” the quick paced, “Trade Mistakes,” and the beat and clap filled “Let’s Kill Tonight.” Really, it’s easy to slide right in to any of the songs, and at a brief thirty-seven minutes, Vices & Virtues
manages to be adequately timed, allowing for a cursory listen that lets the hooks and lines wash over you, rather than inundate you.
Vices & Virtues
really should be seen as a new chapter in the life of Panic! At the Disco. Sure it’s not perfect, and it really doesn’t even come close to touching their debut, but it’s a fantastic step in the right direction, exuding the catchy cuteness that has made the band such a joy to listen to all these years.