PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Panic! at the Disco: Vices and Virtues

Be it half-full or half-empty, please raise a glass for Panic! at the Disco. Yes, brothers and sisters, the exclamation mark is back.


Panic! at the Disco

Vices and Virtues

Label: Decaydance
US Release Date: 2011-03-22
UK Release Date: 2011-03-28
Album Cover
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Act III. The dimly lit stage is bare except for two forlorn but impeccably dressed bohemian gentlefolk. Having gained marginal social respectability with 2008's Pretty. Odd. things were looking dandy for Panic at the Disco. Their delicious platter of Beatles-y "Strawberry Field" acoustics had been modestly triumphant. The pop gentry had raised their glasses and rattled their jewellery with approval. OK, the pesky street urchin kids may've moved on to new distractions, but, hey, our heroes were no longer pelted with bottles of lukewarm urine at British societal gatherings. The history books would henceforth be rewritten with added smiley faces....but then celebrated wordsmith Sir Ryan of Ross, along with plank spanker Monsieur Jon Walker, decided to evacuate the dancefloor henceforth and, indeed, Panic! no more. The year is now 2011, and our sorrowful tale continues with just Panic! President Brendan Urie and his loyal drummin' compadre Spencer Smith left holding the flag. Older, wiser and freshly battle bloodied, would they again rise victorious or go down with the ship, bitter tears lost to the sea?

Well there's good news, and there's good news. The much maligned exclamation after "Panic" is BACK! They may have turned their back on it like ungrateful swines to hang with the hipsters, but all is forgiven, and it's kisses and manly handshakes for their Prodigal Son. I think basically it means that "Fun" is back on the menu. Out goes the acid lickin' Fab Four navel gazing -- Vices and Virtues is "Pop Rocky Supreme" without an ounce of fat and praise the Lord for simple pleasures, is simply a heartwarming, joyful comeback.

Opener "Ballad of Mona Lisa" is a bit of a red herring. Despite a passing resemblance to Muse's "Starlight" it's also a cautious backstep to their commercial peak "I Write Sins Not Tragedies". Storytellin' servants, sauce n' seduction, and sinful retribution. "There's nothing wrong with just a taste of what you paid for". It's pretty but an oddly safe comeback considering the circumstances. Alas! Its bounding bedfellow "Let's Kill Tonight" is more indicative of Vices and Virtues' strengths. Floorshakin' marching drums and choppy synths kneel before an outrageously OTT chorus. Bullet-train fast and perkier than a diet of Prozac 'n' Red Bull, it slips in a Phantom of the Opera synth roll, choirs, handclaps, and orchestras into its salute-inducing pomposity before sailing out of view over a waterfall of violins. You can even sing Toni Basil's "Mickey" over the instrumental breakdown. What's not to love?

Yes, Vices ain't no wallflower. If Pretty.Odd. was betrothed to the Beatles, then here they're fluttering their eyelashes at Freddie Mercury and Queen. Backed into fight or flight, consider this the musical equivalent of peacock feathers. "Hey kids, check out this plumage." These are determined, assured songs meticulously crafted for enormodomes, car radios, Saturday nights, everywhere. There's no bedroom angst here -- "You'll dance to anything!" taunts Urie gleefully from Vice's Penthouse. The heavy new wave stomp of "Hurricane", with its lothario brovado of "A revolution in my bedroom" and its Village People worthy "HEY! HEY!" commands, make it campier than a field of tents. Songs like "Memories" are trim, slick, and brazen. It won't tax your brain or change your life one iota, but it deserves to be bottled amongst textbook remedies as "Since You Been Gone" or "Since U Been Gone" as "Eternal Youth". Balmy summers, schools out, a catchy "Oh Oh Oh" chorus, and life -- if only for three minutes-thirty -- feels fine.

Urie and Smith have pretty much gone "all in" with Vices. Fuck art, let's dance. It's unashamedly commercial. You could throw a dart blindfolded and hit a radio smash guaranteed. Upcoming single, the perfect, punchy powerpop of "Ready to Go" is an EarWorm Deluxe. As glamorously bulletproof as Katy Perry's "Hot 'N' Cold", it's laboratory raised by megalomaniacs in white coats for pop radio domination. An impossibly guilty pleasure, it even cheekily hoodwinks the Who's "Baba O'Riley" during a genius instrumental breakdown. Teenage wasteland, here we come! In fact, the only pause for breath comes on the sweet acoustic McCartney-esque lullaby "Always". "I'm the light blinking at the end of the road / Blink back to let me know," sighs Urie. Aww.

Vices might've benefited from more depth, though. Two-thirds in, you'll no longer need the guy holding the cue cards for "HEARTFELT VERSE" or "BIG FUCK OFF CHORUS". The perky "Trade Mistakes" is a tad too vacuous and eager. It's basically what Justin Bieber might peddle when he starts smoking cigarettes and staying out past bedtime. Similarly, the pleasant but generic "The Calendar" is little more than a middling Fall Out Boy bonus track, though it does swing a mightily rousing outro sweep of "ONLY! FOR! YOU!". Lyrically, I'm mildly missing Ross' razor sharp wordplay, too. Tying on the cape of "Chief Lyricist", Urie opts for the everyman approach; sincere, passionate, and likeable, but I'm often jonesing for a hit of Ross' spiky barbs.

There are a few eclectic twists, though, which holler back to the Panic! of yore. The Mexican trumpeters and tumbling drummers of the rousing "Sarah Smiles" feel like they've wandered in from their schizophrenic mix-tape d├ębut. The big finale, "Nearly Witches", features frisky French punkers the Plastiscines and what might be Rolf Harris on stylophone... and that's just the first 20 seconds. The rest of its victorious madness sounds like a blend of Broadway, Vaudeville, and Adam West's Batman conducted by Jeff Lynne. "I only shoot up with your perfume", swoons Urie deliriously before Virtues vanishes into its own magician's top hat.

Clearly, rumours of Panic! at the Disco's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Stamp those coffins "Return to Sender". The departure of two of its crew is noticeable, but Vices & Virtues remains a convincing, uplifting, and entertaining voyage. It's crafted by professional marksmen with the hearts of the masses in their crossfire. It's also got loads of violins on it -- there must've been a sale on. Urie effortlessly evades the hangman's noose and even emerges as the sweet Macca "wacky thumbs aloft" to Ross' sour Lennon. So for those who tuck ELO and Queen between your Deerhunter and Toro Y Moi, now is the time to rejoice. Tomorrow, we may cry, but tonight, let's dance in our underpants and make wild, crazy love in the streets. Vices and Virtues is a record made by two people on their knees, their arms outstretched. It would be just mean to walk on by and not at least give 'em a quick hug.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.