Jeff Fusco, Getty Images And they say there's no such thing as rockstars…
- Posted on Apr 13th 2011 10:30AM by Lonny Knapp
Kevin Winter | Getty Images
"On this record, me and [singer/multi-instrumentalist] Brendon [Urie] wanted to do some things we got away from on the second record, I guess it might have something to do with that," he tells Spinner. "Even though it's the same name, it's kind of like we are different band. This is a fresh start."
When Panic! at the Disco released 2005's 'A Fever You Can't Sweat Out' critics dismissed the group as a flash-in-the-pan emo band. But fans connected with the group's carnival aesthetic, confessional lyrics, and unique blend of orchestral instruments and rock guitars, and the debut album went platinum.
Any time an album logs over a million sales, a band tends to stick with the formula. For their sophomore release, however, Panic! at the Disco ditched the blueprint, lifted a few Beatles licks, and dialed up Beach Boys-style harmonies. The result was 'Pretty Odd,' a far-reaching sophomore record that sounds like 'Pet Sounds' or 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' as filtered through the minds of young guys in skin-tight black jeans and guyliner.
When the album proved too much of a departure, and ultimately triggered a creative rift amongst band members, Urie and Smith were left holding the bag.
"We didn't even know if we were going to continue as a band. We considered all of our options, then decided that if we were going to continue, we wanted to do something more in line with what Panic! was."
Sonically, 'Vices & Virtues' is closer to the band's debut. While some fans will welcome the return of big guitars, synthesizers and well-placed strings, others will lament the loss of the band's voice.
Ryan Ross is credited as the sole songwriter on 'A Fever You Can't Sweat Out.' It was his painfully confessional lyrics that informed the hits 'I Write Sins Not Tragedies' and 'Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off.' With Ross out of the picture, Urie takes over as de facto songwriter.
As a lyricist, Urie is less visceral, but radio-friendly anthems such as 'Let's Kill Tonight' and the first single 'The Ballad of Mona Lisa' prove he's not lacking pop sensibility. With Urie at the helm, the band's debut as a duo has made them mainstream darlings.
"Brendon and I have always liked pop music, but we didn't sit down and come up with a master plan to make a commercial record, it's just what evolved naturally,' Smith explains.
The mysteriously disappearing then reappearing exclamation mark exemplifies Panic! at the Disco's career to this point. The only constant: change.
When asked if he worries all this instability might confuse or otherwise alienate fans, Smith insists he's not concerned. He says modern music fans who have grown up in the digital age -- a demographic in which he includes himself -- discover and dismiss music at an accelerated rate and perhaps suffer from "some sort of ADD caused by the Internet." For each fan that trades in their Panic! at the Disco t-shirt -- with or without the exclamation mark -- there's a new fan waiting to discover the band for the first time.
"We know that fans that liked us three years ago, wouldn't listen to us now, while others are only discovering us now," he says. "Our hardcore fans have just come to expect us to not stick with one sound for too long -- and hopefully that's exciting to them."