Reflections on Panic!’s past and present

Signal Editor-in-Chief and confessed Panic! fanatic Caroline Russomanno dissects Panic! At the Disco’s new album, ‘Vices and Virtues,’ seen here. (AP Photo)

I wish I could say the album I was most excited for this year was “The King of Limbs” or something else equally impressive. And while I was excited for the elusive Radiohead to give us something more, I have to admit that I was much more excited for another album that came out less than a month later. Much, MUCH more excited.

One of my favorite bands of all time is Panic! At the Disco. I know. I’ve heard it before and I’m sure I’ll hear it again: Aren’t they emo? Are they even any good? Doesn’t Pete Wentz write everything for them?

The answers are maybe, hell yes and god no.

If we’re saying “emo” means emotional (the original definition of the overused and underappreciated term), then yes, they are rather emotional (as all good music should be). They are excellent, especially live, and Pete Wentz is too busy getting divorced to have anything to do with their new album.

And oh, how I both anticipated and feared this new album. When “Vices and Virtues” dropped on March 22, I listened with trepidation. A lot has changed since Panic!’s last album, “Pretty. Odd.” They’re down two band members. Former guitarist Ryan Ross and former bassist Jon Walker left the band in the summer of 2009 due to “creative differences.” Translation: Ross and Walker wanted to make another Beatles rip-off a la “Pretty. Odd.” and singer/guitarist Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith didn’t want to.

Well, Ross and Walker walked (no pun intended) and formed the Young Veins and recorded “Take a Vacation” almost instantly. It was ’60s beach pop. Fine. Whatever floats your boat. But that was never supposed to be P!ATD.

Urie and Smith took a lot longer. They made us wait. They made us sweat. They drove us absolutely insane (so, OK, maybe that was just me). They released 30-second song clips just to make us cry a little when it stopped. And then they finally released their 10-song album (mine also has four bonus songs — I highly recommend this version).

And it’s AWESOME. This is the album that should have followed 2006’s “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out.” Unlike “Pretty. Odd.,” which sounds like the band got high and listened to a bunch of Beatles records, “Vices and Virtues” picks up where “Fever” left off. A slightly vaudevillian strain permeates the album, and it definitely speaks to the 2006 double platinum hit, especially the MTV VMA Video of the Year winner, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” The first single’s video off the new release, “The Ballad of Mona Lisa,” is filmed in the same church as the “Sins” video and seems to be a continuation. Urie makes his usual faces and shows his fearlessness when it comes to “acting.” He’s one of the most talented singers in music right now, and he plays practically every instrument.

“Ballad” is a good song. All of the songs on this album are good. Really good. But there are two that you should stop reading this article to go download right now: “Let’s Kill Tonight” and “Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met).” “Let’s Kill Tonight” is a rollicking good time with a hard rock center and an awesome horror movie throwback.

And “Nearly Witches” has that vaudevillian charm with an irresistible chorus (that will get stuck in your head). Other winners are “Sarah Smiles” and “Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind).

Panic! is awesome live (definitely one of the best live shows I’ve seen, and I’ve seen MANY). I can see this album being pretty kickass live, too. They’re on tour this summer. I’m unfortunately going to miss them, but that doesn’t mean you have to! Go! Buy this album and see their concert! You won’t be sorry! Panic! may have become a pop culture punch line, but after you give them a chance, you’ll be the one laughing at everyone who hasn’t.

Caroline Russomanno can be reached at russoma4@tcnj.edu