"I’m too sacred for the sinners/And the saints wish I would leave." - Mark Heard
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Review - Panic at the Disco - Vices & Virtues
Panic! At the Disco is the first band whose videos made me like their songs less. I was late to the Panic! Party, only getting their album Pretty.Odd a few months ago and found their clever fairy-tale lyrics and Beatle-infused arrangements quite appealing. So in learning that they had a new album coming out I decided to peruse a couple of videos from Pretty.Odd only to find that the lead singer is an annoying egotistical twerp. I guess it comes with the territory of being a lead singer but seriously, this guy pushed his mug into every shot. “HEY CAMERA! I’M OVER HERE!”
Even with consciously avoiding thoughts of this guy smugly singing I’m disappointed with their new album Vices & Virtues. For one thing it’s short. Ten songs clocking in around thirty-seven minutes. Apparently having over two years between albums isn’t enough time for more. Or maybe that “more” is what they packed into their massive “deluxe” version of this album. Which of course costs “more,” something I’m not willing to risk on a band that has yet to prove to me that it’s more than a one-album wonder. Of these ten songs on the album proper, the single, “The Ballad of Mona Lisa,” is quite good. Sporting a heavy, modern, pulsing rhythm, sly nods at an 80s sound and a chorus full of dynamite this song sets an extremely high watermark for the rest of the album to fail to hit. It also has what can only be called a steam punk sound, an astonishing amalgam of old and new that a few of the remaining tracks also manage to capture. The best “steam punk” song is “Let’s Kill Tonight,” which may be a song for Jack the Ripper. Opening with electronic sounding drums and mechanical hand claps the song incorporates Victorian flourishes such as creepy strings and a menacing, antiquated feel. “Hurricane” is also appealing with a big, fun disco beat and a few curveballs that catch you off guard as well as tongue-in-cheek lyrics like “You’ll dance to anything” and “I said all this in verse three”… but there is no verse three. The final track, “Nearly Witches” is a bit like the songs on Pretty.Odd, cracking open with a youth chorus singing in French before jumping headfirst into a number of quirky rhythms. The chorus of “Ever since we met / I only shoot up with your perfume” also references Mona Lisa, bringing the album full circle. In between the two Mona Lisa references are a bunch of also-ran songs. Both “Memories” and “Ready To Go” have a generic 80s New Wave sound, “Always” is a gushy love song and exactly one interesting sonic effect and “The Calendar” tries to be a sing-along blockbuster but comes off being lackluster.
Panic! At the Disco is at least trying to make interesting music and they get extra points for creating what might be the world’s first steam punk power pop album. I picked up Vices & Virtues for a pre-release price of $7.99, which is about right for the quality and quantity of songs. $4.99 would have been better, given the mental scarring I still carry from watching their videos.