A few years ago, Panic! at the Disco were on top of the world, riding their awesome debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out to platinum status and collecting an MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year for the spectacularly spastic “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” One difficult second album (the lovely but strange Pretty. Odd.) and some personnel upheaval later (members Ryan Ross and Jon Walker left to form the Young Veins, leaving behind frontman Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith), the group is back with Vices & Virtues, their third album. Though there are psychedelic elements left over from the experiments on Pretty. Odd., Vices & Virtues gets back into the habit of cranking out big emo riffs with splashes of goth and a lot of theater.
The album deals with a number of lyrical issues, but it also focuses on the split with Ross and Walker. As Smith and Urie explained to MTV News, at least one of those songs about the tumult ended up being accidental.
But is everybody happy to see the new version Panic! at the Disco? Actually, yes. “Vices & Virtues is loaded with chippy Casio beats, handclaps, stirring strings, crunchy guitars, blaring horns, chiming bells and an assortment of things that go bump in the night,” wrote MTV News’ James Montgomery. “Panic! are back to their old tricks, exclamation point and all … and perhaps that was the secret ingredient all along. Because if there’s one thing Vices & Virtues is, it’s exuberant. If you’re not excited, you should be.”
Alternative Press also welcomed the new version of Panic! at the Disco. “Perhaps Smith and Urie’s biggest success on Vices is their disinterest in simply recreating either of their previous albums, instead choosing to meld the youthful exuberance of their debut with the restraint and maturity of 2008’s Pretty. Odd.,” wrote critic Evan Lucy. “The duo sound absolutely recharged, likely a result of the lineup shuffling, but also perhaps a realization that the ’70s were a nice place to visit for a couple years, but life in the 21st century is much more fun.”
Spin thought that though the album was good, Ross’ absence is felt too deeply. “Vices & Virtues returns to the slick, big-production pop of the band’s two-million-selling, 2005 debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out — heart-collapsing arena guitars, swelling strings, and overheated, mallrat-baiting choruses,” wrote critic Mikael Wood. “But without Ross, the group’s main songwriter, who drew on his own scarred youth (including the early death of his alcoholic father), Urie steps in to pen the lyrics, and the result is verbose and generic diary-entry romance.”
Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone concurred with Spin’s assessment about the lyrics. “The group’s old lyricist, Ryan Ross, is gone; these songs are missing some of the hyper mall-rat poetry that made Panic’s first two albums such daffy fun,” he wrote. “But the arrangements are tight, even when the songs get baroque: Check ’Nearly Witches,’ which mixes funk, Fifties horror-movie kitsch and a children’s choir to ridiculous — and sublime — effect.”
What do you think of Panic! at the Disco’s new album? Let us know in the comments!