Panic! At The Disco & Steampunk

Regardless of whether you as a steampunk like their music, the band Panic! At The Disco definitely likes you. In 2011 the band released “The Ballad of Mono Lisa” off of their third album Vices & Virtues. The music video is unabashedly steampunk and employs the cast of The League of S.T.E.A.M. (Supernatural and Troublesome Ectoplasmic Apparition Management), a.k.a. the “Steampunk Ghostbusters”, to supply the ambiance as that band bounces around in a melodrama narrative that involves murder and ghosts. The League’s full ensemble cast appear in key roles in the video. They also brought in additional cast members to further populate the scene and create a richer atmosphere with a unified aesthetic. In addition, The League’s Creative Director Nick Baumann acted as the production’s primary steampunk consultant.

To many steampunks, the essential role of The League of S.T.E.A.M. in the filming of the video for “The Ballad of Mono Lisa” is old news, but consider that perhaps Panic! At The Disco’s liking of steampunk imagery stretches further back to the time of their first album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, released in 2005, and the song “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” The opening of “The Ballad of Mono Lisa” starts with the location of the “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” video as the camera pans down the pews of the chapel now cover in cobwebs to show the passage of time, we see the top of lead singer Brendon Urie’s top hat angled in a similar fashion to shots from “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” and then as the door to the chapel is closed it opens to another place and we transition into “The Ballad of Mono Lisa” as a natural evolution from one video to the other.

While “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” does not feature steampunk tropes such as technology, the vaudeville and sideshow costuming suggest the spirit of steampunk before actually fully labeling it as so. The sense of wonderment and rejection of social norms displayed by the “invading” circus freaks definitely speaks to the “punk” aspect of the Steampunk Community. Also the use of stringed instruments in “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” gives the song that mixture of the old and the modern that so often defines steampunk. While I would not go so far as to suggest that Panic! At The Disco are a steampunk band, I would definitely defend the groups use of steampunk as being genuine love of the genre and not jumping on the steam driven band wagon . . . like some videos we shall look at next week.

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