Best of the B Sides: “Hurricane”

I’ve been listening to Panic! at the Disco again recently. I’ve always had a secret love for their music, sort of on par with how much I really do love Coldplay (barring Ghost Stories. I’ve had a few interesting conversations this week about that album). I’ve been going through Panic’s discography and I’m significantly impressed by Vices and Virtues (2011) this time around. Pretty. Odd. (2008) is by far their most creative and original album, but Vices and Virtues came at a considerable low point for Panic.

Pretty. Odd. was a totally new direction for Panic after the success of the delightfully emo A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out (2005). (Pro tip: you can tell an emo album if the song titles are longer than the songs). They cleaned up their sound for Pretty. Odd. and mellowed out, making an enjoyable, creative, fun baroque pop album. The sound is full and pleasant, the quirks aren’t overwhelming, and the pop singles have creative integrity. Soon after the album was released, lyricist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker parted from frontman Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith. It seems the two duos were at odds about the band’s new sound, so Ross and Walker went off to start their own band, The Young Veins, while Urie and Smith recorded another Panic album.

Vices and Virtues is a bizarre album. It sticks to the baroque pop feeling the whole band developed with Pretty. Odd. but boosts the intensity, bringing back some of the darker flavors of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, but only the flavors that had aged well. It’s not a fantastic album, it’s not completely original, but it has some wonderful qualities all the same.

I’m particularly drawn to “Hurricane” on Vices and Virtues. It plays both of Panic’s fields nicely: weird baroque pop mixed with straight pop. The quirk shows itself in the verses with these odd, almost vampiric sounds layered under Urie’s unique voice, and the chorus bursts into a fairly standard (but not boring!) pop chorus. Fans have their own rumors about this song, the popular opinion considering that it’s generally about Ross and Walker leaving the band. Fair guess when the chorus is We are a hurricane/drop our anchors in a storm/they will never be the same/a fire in a flask to keep us warm/cause they know I know/that they don’t look like me/no they know I know/that they don’t sound like me.

Band grudges aside, “Hurricane” is an excellent pop punk/baroque pop/pop track on Vices and Virtues among the three singles, ranging from the truly odd “Ballad of Mona Lisa” to the pop “Ready to Go” to the in-betweener “Let’s Kill Tonight“. So while Pretty. Odd. may be an image of Panic at their most creative, Vices and Virtues is more important than fans give it credit for. There’s some solid work on this album, and “Hurricane” tops the bill in my book.

Photo courtesy of the band’s instagram/@frenzyofdeceit

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