Sunday, May 29, 2011

Vices & Virtues -- Panic! at the Disco

Panic! at the Disco is a band that has always intrigued me. The lyrics and quirkiness of A Fever You Can't Sweat Out were great and made the band unique. There was just something missing from the formula that was holding Panic! at the Disco back from being a great pop-punk band. Their second studio release, Pretty. Odd., was not my cup-of-tea, but I respected the direction the band chose to take. I thought the sophomore effort was inferior in most ways to the prior release, but I truly revered the mature sound in the music. I hoped that in a third album, the band would try to find a way to combine the best aspects of both their previous releases. Enter Vices & Virtues.

Vices & Virtues is the band's best and most complete album to date. One of the things I was most excited to see was the return of the quirky, almost ominous, strings and keys. It seems most bands are too afraid to take chances and differ from the norm in the pop-punk/rock genre and, as a result, tend to sound too much alike. Panic! is not afraid to take chances and experiment and this is where they stand out. These little string sections are placed in just the right places and set the perfect mood for the songs. It is the little things that put Vices & Virtues above others in the genre. Choir-type vocals that are used sparingly and in the proper place, as they are here, add a nice touch to dramatic parts of songs. Simple 2/4 to 4/4 time changes are nothing spectacular on their own, but the changes found in "Let's Kill Tonight" save an otherwise drab song and turn it into a song that gives one a reason to listen. Another cool thing added to this album is song outros. These are implemented very well into a few songs on the album. It is admirable that the band did not try to make these little interludes into a separate track to boost the song count on the album and instead simply used the instrumentals as segues between songs.

In addition to the pleasant return of keys, synth, and strings, the bass playing was exquisite. The bass drives several songs along and should even be a focal point for listeners in a song or two. "Hurricane" is a song that is propelled from the status of "average" to "very good" because of the bass throughout, and especially during the chorus. In addition to improved bass guitar work, the band has improved style as a whole as compared to previous efforts. Panic! managed to find a happy medium in songwriting. The songs are neither too dark nor too bright. The songs find a way to be upbeat and fun to listen to while still having heartfelt, genuine, and serious lyrics. This is a particularly amazing feat since the primary lyricist departed the band and left Brendon Urie (lead vocalist) to write the words for his own songs for the first time, which he was able to do more than adequately. One of the best parts of the album is that none of the songs sound alike. Many bands write great music, but once they find success they return to the old formula too many times and end up having a album that drones. One may worry that since the songs all have a unique sound the album may be too scattered to enjoy in a single listen. While this is a valid concern, Panic! has managed to create a work that incorporates a variety of styles and is still an entirely cohesive album.

The negative of Vices & Virtues is that while there are a few great songs on the album, there are others that have trouble being consistent throughout the entire song. For example, "Trade Mistakes" has one of the best choruses on the entire album and is reminiscent of a mixture between The White Tie Affair and Mayday Parade (which speaks volume for the singing of Brendon Urie), it seems to be lacking in the verses. This is the case for a few songs on the album including the aforementioned "Let's Kill Tonight". While this isn't an optimal listening experience, it is an achievement that there is no song on the entire album that is deserving of the "skip treatment". Even the least interesting song on the album, "I'm Ready To Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)", has its moments that is sure to get one singing along.

While many songs on Vices & Virtues stop at being good or very good, there are three songs on this album that strove to be great. The title for "most fun song" goes to "Miracles". There is not much to say of the track except it features feel-good music, Brendon Urie's top-notch vocals, and a sing-a-long chorus. "The Ballad of Mona Lisa", the first single, was a near perfect opener. It starts with the some of the most emotion provoking keys on the album and then kicks in with driving, distorted bass and strings take the place of the keys. The track has one of the more fun choruses on the album and the pre-chorus is the best 10-second section on the album outside of the closer, "Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met...)". "Nearly Witches" is probably as good as a song written by Panic! at the Disco can be. It features the quirky verses that set the band apart, a choir of children, a slowdown to 4/4 in the choruses (I admit I'm a sucker for it), and 3/4 bass and vocals over a 2/4 beat. The way the children's choir sings "Mona Lisa, Pleased to Meet Ya" over Urie's vocals to bring the album to a close, has a bittersweet optimism feel.

Panic! at the Disco released the best album of their brief career with Vices & Virtues. Will they settle in and become complacent or continue to experiment and push their boundaries? Only time will tell.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Genre: Pop-Rock/Pop-Punk

Recommended Tracks:
"The Ballad of Mona Lisa"
"Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met...)"


  1. Great review, man! Nice to meet another blogger who tries to give honest takes on music that people actually listen to. Plus I'm happy to read any blog that throws Jack's Mannequin some love, where most critics don't even review them.

  2. Thanks! I appreciate it. I really hope you enjoy all my reviews and those I'll write in the future.