The first thing you notice is the top hat. Covered in cobwebs, it's the same one from Panic! at the Disco's breakout "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" clip, which won Video of the Year at the 2006 VMAs, and has since been lost to the sands of time, forgotten by all but the most ardent of the band's supporters (the clip was the one with the mimes at the wedding, just in case you forgot). Which, of course, means that the top hat is meant to be symbolic ... because much like everything else from that bygone era, the Fever You Can't Sweat Out version of Panic! is dead and dusted.
Or, at least, that seems to be the deeper message in the video for "The Ballad of Mona Lisa," the first single from Panic!'s post-Pretty. Odd. post-bust-up comeback album, Vices & Virtues. Now pressing on as a two-piece (frontman Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith), Panic! are moving headlong into the future ... though they've still got to bury the past.
And in "Mona Lisa," they do just that. There's definitely death in the air — the whole thing is basically a wake for a recently deceased Urie — but give credit to Panic! and longtime director Shane Drake (who's done several clips for the band, including the aforementioned "I Write Sins ...") for not settling for heavy-handed symbolism. Because "Mona Lisa" is a lot more: part gushing steampunk tribute, part gloriously over-the-top performance piece, and, of course, a little bit murder-mystery dinner theater thrown in for good measure.
In other words, not only is it the most evolved Panic! clip, it's also probably their best. Not to knock their earlier productions, but vids like "Sins" or "But It's Better If You Do" or even "Nine in the Afternoon" pale in comparison to "Mona Lisa" — they're simplistic and decidedly, uh, thrifty looking. This time out, Panic! go big, with a video that not only looks great — the costumes, the set, the performance — but actually unspools as a compelling story piece.
We wonder just who is hidden beneath the funeral linens (for a second, I honestly thought it was going to be departed guitarist Ryan Ross), and why Urie is stomping around with his hair wild and teeth yellowed (it's because he's a ghost trying to solve his own murder). And, most importantly, we ponder who killed him. When the big reveal finally happens, you genuinely feel like you've been swerved. And then we get to see one of those steampunk guns in action. So, you know, win-win.
So are you captivated by Panic!'s "Ballad of Mona Lisa" video? Let us know in the comments.