- Original publication date: 29 March 2011
Take what happened to Oasis (see my recent Beady Eye review for details), albeit with less physical brawling, subtract another band member from that equation, and place said equation right after only the band's second album, which was drastically different in tone and style to its first. Whew. Most bands in that situation, even after the sudden success that Panic! At The Disco achieved, would either add new members or disband completely. P!ATD chose neither. Now drummer Spencer Smith and singer (as well as newly-minted multi-instrumentalist) Brendon Urie form a duo that boldly carries on the band's confused and fragile legacy in the face of adversity.
What that legacy is is difficult to define. Their debut A Fever You Can't Sweat Out was a double-platinum slice of alternative-pop-rock theatrics with a dark, obscure, Vaudevillian twist. Then Pretty. Odd. rewrote the emo script, morphing their sound into something light-hearted, and musically avant-garde, drawing inspiration from the baroque pop of The Beatles and The Beach Boys. This divisive move caught critics off-guard and confounded fans of their sassy earlier work. But for all the maturity gained from their misunderstood second album, it didn't help establish a sure identity.
If I Could Trade Mistakes For Sheep
Given the tumultuous backdrop to its release, my hopes were not set too high for Vices And Virtues, despite counting myself as a fan of all their previous work. Duos have their place in rock 'n roll history, but very rarely (if ever) as a result of subtraction.
But Urie & Spencer do not disappoint, and succeed in what they set out to achieve: to take the angst and energetic production of their debut and meld it with the ambition, whimsy and experimentation of their sophomore record.
The formula produces some infectious outcomes, with Urie's showman persona taking up more limelight now that there are less members to share it with. His captivating voice, first derided for its similarities to that of Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump, sounds assured and many of these songs are carried by his croon, no more so than on 'Always', a tenderhearted acoustic ballad which provides a brief respite from the giddy energy of first single 'The Ballad Of Mona Lisa' or 'Memories'.
For 'Sarah Smiles', there's an undeniable sweetness in the vocals juxtaposed with the forlorn attitude of the lyrics; another pop delight. Pianos twinkle, strings & synths rise and fall dramatically, and marimbas, xylophones, accordion and even a children's choir all add to the swing of the show. These arrangements make the 'pop' in 'pop-rock' cool again, and Vices & Virtues your latest guilty pleasure. Enjoy in many servings.
- The Ballad of Mona Lisa
- Let's Kill Tonight
- Trade Mistakes
- Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)
- The Calendar
- Sarah Smiles
- Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met...)
Release date: 18 March 2011