During Panic! at the Disco’s Tuesday night show in New York City — the first time they’d been on a Stateside stage in nearly 18 months — they made no bones about the fact that they had put the past behind them. Free of the internal bickering that threatened to derail them, they were loose, lively and, most of all, happy.
But just because they’ve moved on doesn’t mean Panic! aren’t still dealing with the past. Their new album, the upcoming Vices & Virtues (due March 29), is directly indebted to the ground they covered on their debut, 2005’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out (some may even suggest it’s that album’s logical successor), full of whirring electronics, stirring strings and a definite sense of theatrics, something that was missing on their follow-up, the unjustly overlooked Pretty. Odd.
And Panic! will be the first ones to admit this. Sort of.
“I think there’s songs like [first single ‘The Ballad of] Mona Lisa’ that come from the similar vein as Fever,” frontman Brendon Urie said. “That being said, I don’t know if it could fit on Fever. … I think it was a new band, it was a new start when Spencer and I started writing, so it was gonna end up sounding different, sonically. But maybe some songs were a progression from the first record.”
For the first time in their (rather turbulent) career, Panic! are setting out as a duo: Urie and drummer Spencer Smith. And Vices is most definitely their project. They played nearly every instrument (save the strings and the occasional horn) and, in the absence of departed guitarist/songwriter Ryan Ross , wrote every lyric on the disc. But rather than shrink from the challenge, they rose to the occasion.
“The biggest change was lyrically, for Brendon. There was a couple songs on Pretty. Odd. that he did himself, but for the whole record, that was a big change,” Smith explained. “But at the same time, I mean, for the past few years, he had probably 30, 35 demos, minute-long ideas that he had been writing, and those didn’t always get the chance to get heard before.”
And though there are songs on Vices that do recall the sun-dappled nostalgia of Pretty. Odd. (like the acoustic ballad “Always”), their new album is a very much a step into the future. But, like we said, just because they’ve moved on, it doesn’t mean they’re still not coming to terms with the past. Take, for example, the song “The Calendar,” which is very much about the departure of Ross and bassist Jon Walker. Call it closure, if you will.
“It was about a guy and a girl, a kind of a story, but the more we looked at the lyrics, we felt that it really tied into the experience of Ryan and Jon leaving, and it was weird,” Urie said. “We were like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of weird, going from the idea of a girl, and then thinking about the intimate relationship we had with the four of us, and what that ended up being with Spencer and I.’ [But] that dictated the rest of the song. We were able to finish it with that in mind.”
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