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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Review: Vices & Virtues

James Christopher Sheppard reviews
the new Panic! At the Disco album
Vices & Virtues

In 2005, Panic! At the Disco burst onto the music scene and rose quickly to the very top of the huge emo/rock genre. Their debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, had a theatrical and upbeat fun rock vibe, which went hand in hand with their groundbreaking shows. With lyrics on their first two albums penned by now departed member, Ryan Ross, it’s going to be tough for the new line up, Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith, to match the same depth of lyrical issues the band were known for. Second album, Beatles inspired Pretty. Odd., featured a departure in sound for the band, plus they dropped the much-loved exclamation mark from their name. As a result, the album had underwhelming sales and a luke-warm reception from their fans. Vices & Virtues see’s the band re-instating their original name, Panic! At the Disco, and sounding more theatrical and rock orientated, employing the same style as their debut, but how does it compare?

‘The Ballad of Mona Lisa’
Musically in-keeping with their debut, this first single stands far enough away from the material on their first album to show the bands growth, but also shows that Urie and Smith have realized and are playing to their strengths. The creeping, slightly distorted piano that opens the track is a good indication that Panic! are back and mean business. A dark and upbeat roaring track, this provides a promising start to the album.

‘Let’s Kill Tonight’
The drum machine and vocal effect featured at the beginning of this track, again, is a sound familiar to the lovers of the band’s debut. By the chorus, the track has taken quite a different and intriguing turn, however, becoming darker and angrier. This almost sounds like the Panic! of 2005 meeting Lostprophets, which surprisingly works and provides an invigorating and fresh sound.

‘Hurricane’
‘Hurricane’ sounds a lot like it belongs on a Fall Out Boy album. Catchy and danceable, the track circles around the line ‘you’ll dance to anything’, which is quite a provoking statement. Not bad by any means, but there is nothing unforeseen here.

‘Memories’
The opening of ‘Memories’ sounds slightly Manic Street Preachers-esque which is unexpected after ‘Hurricane’. Musically and lyrically moving, strings soar and the tempo keeps an uplifting pace, ‘Memories’ is the song that hears the boys reflecting on the troubled past of the band. One to download if you are cherry picking.

‘Trade Mistakes’
Another string heavy track, Urie sings of self-loathing and ‘sinking like an anchor’, ‘sinking her’. Lyrically, ‘Trade Mistakes’ is one of the saddest songs, although that isn’t overly reflected in the production.

‘Ready to Go (Get Me Out Of My Mind)’
The driving track of the album, this is destined to be played loudly while driving fast in the summer sun. There is something very revitalizing and care-free about this track. Altogether, ‘Ready to Go’ is a great pop-rock track and is very radio friendly.

‘Always’
The first track to heavily feature the sound of an acoustic guitar, this track will be popular with fans of the bands second album, as well as fans of bands like the Plain White T’s. ‘Always’ is a simple, sweet song with a calming melody and catchy vocal arrangement.

‘The Calendar’
This track, even after several listens, fails to grab your attention. The music is quite charming, but the track is unfortunately pretty instantly forgettable.

‘Sarah Smiles’
Sounding like it should be on Nightmare of You’s self-titled album, ‘Sarah Smiles’ has the feel of about three completely different, already recorded tracks, being thrown together. There is little originality here, if any at all.

‘Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met)’
After the last few paint by numbers tracks, the album closer is a welcomed dose of flamboyant quirkiness. With an odd psychedelic opening, this is one of the album’s more memorable moments. Everything from the vocal arrangement, the theatrical choir, the excited ‘woo’, the unexpected camp ‘do do do do do’ in the background, the blissful chorus and the line ‘my one regret is you’ is Panic! At The Disco coming very close to recapturing the magic that was unquestioningly once theirs.

Verdict

If what drew you to Panic! At the Disco back in 2005 was their flamboyant melodramatic lyrics and striking titles, you will be left very disappointed by Vices and Virtues. If you loved the band’s theatrical, rock-pop upbeat feel, then you’ll be pretty happy. This new collection sits musically fairly near the band’s debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, but just doesn’t quite capture the same theatricality of the lyrics.  It is a very listenable album, but, despite a few cracking tracks, the expiry date on how often you will feel yourself craving to hear the whole album, may well be short-lived. 
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