Twenty One Pilots are a rarity. A rock hybrid band that are ‘now’ enough to register on the pop charts while retaining the integrity of a combo who are trying new things.
The last album Blurryface featuring the wonderful Stressed Out, with it’s shades of The Specials’ Ghost Town sucker punch, was the eighth best-selling album of 2016.
So there is a lot to live up to on their fifth album.
What sets this duo from Columbus, Ohio apart is their genre-hopping attitude, their spirit of adventure, their audacious changes of pace mid-tune, their ear for a killer hook and a neat emo-rap.
Nothing epitomises that more than the lead track Jumpsuit, which veers from a bass-heavy nursery rhyme after two minutes to the sweetest of off-kilter middle eights – they love those – and a climax with a rage that Zack de la Rocha would have been proud of.
The fact it’s a mumbo jumbo song allied to a theme about a conceptual world probably doesn’t actually matter.
All the talk is that this concept album is a more mature release containing a controversial song tackling suicide.
That would normally set off alarm bells surrounding self-indulgence, but what it actually means in practice is that there are far more ideas thrown into this mix.
The pop sensibility that underpins all that is great about Twenty One Pilots, however, remains intact to a certain degree as does the unpredicability.
My Blood features an irresistible Prince-esque falsetto chorus and a seductive funk bassline, yet you know the late lamented Purple one could not have come up with this.
And while many bands will have something similar next, not these guys.
Neon Gravestones is the controversial ballad, beginning with a swirling 6/8 piano coda and twitching drums while after 30 seconds, an Eminem-style rap changes the mood in what comes over as a diss to the glorification of celebrity suicides.
The song will undoubtedly received a kneejerk response of insensitivity to victims with lines like: “I’m not disrespecting what was left behind/just pleading that it does not get glorified”.
While this will place the duo, who are practising Christians, in line for criticism, there’s a big ‘it could be me’ Tyler Joseph hook midway which adds a new dimension: “Promise me this/ If I lose to myself/You won’t mourn a day/And you’ll move onto someone else.”
While in more inept hands these hook-laden lines would be hammered home and become a hands in the air anthem, it is repeated just once mid-way and never returned to. It’s no You’re Gorgeous.
By the end of the song Joseph suggests to spending time talking to those with more experience of life in the hope of answers.
“Find your grandparents or someone of age/Pay some respects for the path that they paved/To life they were dedicated/Now that should be celebrated.”
Chlorine, not heavily plugged in advance, sounds like a big anthemic hit single that has to be set on ‘repeat’ yet it too deals with darker subjects. It may be about chemical reliance.
The album’s tiresome subtext of a land called Dema, which is ruled over by nine bishops who keep its population suppressed may be deflection from being accused of preaching.
Having said that the message in the musically compelling second lead track from the album, the reggae-inspired, Nico And The Niners, gets lost in the incomprehensible concept.
In all, Trench merely underscores Twenty One Pilots as a credible world force and in the midst of the esotericism, their life-affirming, inventive and darn catchy music can still shine through.
Source : HeraldScotland