Tuesday, February 15, 2011

steampunk! at the disco ghost story

Alternative rock band Panic! at the Disco just went steampunk.  At least, according to the visual display that is the newly released music video for "The Ballad of Mona Lisa," the first single off their third studio album, Vices & Virtues.
image source: Empire Screamo
While I was not expecting steampunk to go mainstream in music via this particular band, I am not surprised that it did. Panic! at the Disco has always been attracted to the show aspect of music, something that the tour for their freshman album A Fever You Can't Sweat Out showed everyone in 2005.  From all reports that I've heard, their shows were focused way more on cabaret and circus acts than most other mainstream bands.  Remember, this was years before Britney Spears' Circus antics.

image source: Buzznet
The music video is very much reminiscent of  "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"- it opens up in the same church, frontman Brendan Urie wears the same top hat that he wore in the debut single (albeit with steampunk goggles now added) and the idea of a woman hiding a secret that becomes exposed is, once again, the unifying musical theme. The jangly, upbeat music is comparable to the music played for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies."

Instead of the ruined wedding of the first video, this new video is a depiction of a Victorian funeral, peppered with descriptions of how to properly run a funeral (such as "Rule #3 Stop All Clocks").  The ghost of the deceased, played by Brendan Urie, travels through the crowd of the goggled and clockwork-accessorized mourners searching for anyone who might be able to see him so he can solve the mystery of who murdered him.

"The Ballad of Mona Lisa" included the entire cast of The League of S.T.E.A.M., an acting group that portrays themselves as steampunk Ghostbusters (and who I will discuss in further detail later this week) among other neo-Victorian extras.

Now the question is, can Panic! at the Disco be declared a steampunk band?

My answer is: no. Just because they have steampunk elements in one music video doesn't make them steampunk.  They don't really sing about anything in this particular song that explicitly puts one in a Victorian or even neo-Victorian mindset.  Their music is more pop and rock, definitely not the industrial sound that most steampunk-labeled bands, such as Abney Park and Vernian Process, are known for. The steampunk bit just seems like another way for this band to create a fresh and unique stage show and persona for itself, not a way to switch musical genres.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Panic! at the disco...We leave you alone too long and you're off to something new.
    Loved this post. Very interesting, thanks for writing!