While the loss of three band members probably set off widespread panic for some devoted fans, it evidently did not damage P!ATD all too much. Vices and Virtues is a return to form for the remaining duo. The last album released by P!ATD, Pretty. Odd, was in fact, an oddity. With Vices, it’s almost as if they rebooted a series.
First off, this album demands that the listener sit through it start to finish. You will not fully appreciate the work if you skip around. It uses intermittent interludes at the end of certain tracks to bridge the gaps in chord changes, allowing a smooth listening experience. If you do choose to browse through the album, however, there are two highlights for this album that are exceptionally fun.. These are “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” and “Sarah Smiles.” They are both very different in sound but they are an overview of the themes within the album.
Urie and Smith actually start the album with “The Ballad of Mona Lisa,” originally written before Pretty. Odd., and now used as the first single for this project. It scores a haunting melody over their usual heavy bass and guitar riffs. This sets-up the direction they take for the remainder of the album. It begins with the music box ditty. Urie then enters with “She paints her fingers with a close precision.” The poetic lyrics continue to describe our heroine/anti-heroine until we get to a heart-thumping “Say What you mean!/Tell me I’m right!/ And let the sun rain down on me!” If you thought at that point you’ve reached the height of the song you’re mistaken. It reaches a higher level with its pop-punk head slamming riffs on the chorus, “Whoa! Mona Lisa, you’re guaranteed to run this town!” It follows this pattern for the next verse-bridge-chorus triplet, then diverts to an altered bridge that drops the bass and drums until it hits the final chorus. Once I’ve reached the end of this track, you’re hooked.
“Sarah Smiles” is actually the second to last track on the album (unless you get the Deluxe Edition). It starts with an accordion and transitions into acoustic guitar and the lines, “I was fine just a guy living on my own./Waiting for the sky to fall./Then you called and changed it all, Doll.” We already know this is mellowed love song. It’s bass-happy tune gets more lovable as it progresses. You will put your guard down for the bridge’s sentiment, and then suddenly Wham! you’re hit with the ever-so-catchy chorus of “Sarah smiles like Sarah doesn’t care./She lives in her world so unaware./Does she know that my destiny lies with her?/Oh, Sarah./ Are you saving me?” Cue trumpets and second verse.
And those are only two in a list of fantastic songs. This album is near-perfect in its construction. It has everything you would need from them: an up-tempo happy-go-lucky beat in “Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind),” a slow acoustic ballad, “Always,” the darker side of synth in “Let’s Kill Tonight” and “Hurricane,” and the shout-it-out-loud anthem “Memories.” That’s not to say the remaining tracks are anything less than good.
“Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)” is pure drum driven joy. With very small traces of A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran” in the guitar and a variety of playful synthesizer overlay, we get a summer theme song in the works. This song will be blowing out speakers once it’s released as the second single in April. Hopefully the video will be as thrilling as the one for “The Ballad of Mona Lisa.”
Heart-felt sentiment and sincerity are the only two words that truly explain the track “Always”. It’s a bittersweet ode to one’s love. Unlike the rest of the songs on the album, this one is played-down. The orchestral instruments like the horns and strings get far much more attention here than they do as background for the rest of the album.
“Let’s Kill Tonight,” “Hurricane,” and “Memories” all showcase the charm and charisma that P!ATD had back in A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. The lyrics aren’t as full of quip, but they manage well enough. “Let’s Kill Tonight” is Gothic from start to finish. It’s atmospheric sounds will make your hair rise and your feet dance. Amazingly enough, I can probably list this song alongside Evanescence in my Moody Days Mix. It’s not as dark by any means, but it’s ethereal in its own way. “Hurricanes,” likewise hearkens to No Doubt’s “Return of Saturn” and early “Rock Steady” days. It has a punkier and mild ska vibe to it. And “Memories” has moments where I see definite similarities to Kelly Clarkson’s style. There’s a touch of “My Life Would Suck Without You” in the progression with the mood and frustration of “Since U Been Gone.” The bravado in the chorus, “Oh, memories, where’d you go?/You were all I’ve ever known./ How I miss yesterday./How I let it fade away” is perfect for your angst ridden days.
All comparison’s aside, the album is different from most music out on the market. This not your typical alternative/punk band. They have much more variety in their instrumentation, their lyrics could belong in the Romantic era, and Urie’s singing is far from the whiny, irritating sound we all have sadly gotten used to in this genre of music.
With all this said and done, the album is worth the price you pay. It’s well-composed, the production is clean and crisp, and the booklet it comes with is incredibly beautiful. If you order it on their Official Site, you can even get bundle packages with special tour merchandise. You get high quality all the way around with P!ATD’s latest release. Check it out if you can.