Twenty One Pilots, made up of the duo of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun, is no longer a stranger to the big time. The band’s previous album, Blurryface, released in 2015, was an absolute titan. It shattered numerous records. It was the first album in history to have every track receive at least a gold certification from the Recording Industry of America, and it moved over 1.5 million units in 2016 alone. In addition, some of the songs from the album catapulted the group firmly onto the Billboard Hot 100, a chart that’s often considered as a sort of golden ladder to climb in order to foist oneself into the mainstream spotlight. You’ve likely heard of the mega-hits “Stressed Out” and “Ride,” seeing as they reached numbers two and five on the chart, they were played quite incessantly over the radio. The group followed the massive success of Blurryface with some other individual works, the most notable being “Heathens,” released as part of the soundtrack for Suicide Squad, which marked the group as only alternative artist to ever have two concurrent top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. With this kind of reputation behind the band, it’s understandable for the hype to be very high. Trench, the duo’s newest work, is one of the most anticipated albums of the year. Twenty One Pilots’s devoted fanbase should have nothing to fret over, as Trench is overall a very good work of music, but it’s unlikely to make the same mainstream splash that Blurryface did two years ago.
The musical construction of many tracks is quite similar to the group’s previous songs, with a blend of hard-hitting drums and zany hooks as well as more muted and soft pieces. The messages behind the songs, however, vary immensely as the album goes on. These huge variations in theme serve to keep the album interesting, especially when listening to it all in a single sitting, but they can also be a bit jarring, and feel almost disruptive.
“Chlorine” was definitely unique due to the lyrics’ melancholia and sadness. Presumably about a relationship that had gone wrong, the hook featuring the line “sippin’ on straight chlorine / let the vibes slide over me” is pretty dark. A line like this seems more appropriate to, say, the newest Juice WRLD album as opposed to Twenty One Pilots. Regardless, it’s a soft and beautiful song that drives home a disturbing point.
Supporting the point of how the theme of the album varies largely, the song that follows “Chlorine,” titled “Smithereens,” stands in almost a total contrast. While “Chlorine” was soft, brooding, and heavy, “Smithereens” focuses on individual devotion between people, and the rewards that that brings “For you, I’d go / Step to a dude much bigger than me… / I would get beat to smithereens.” An interesting line to put directly after what seems like a depressed song regarding relationships, but, as said before, it keeps it interesting.
“Neon Gravestones” is perhaps the most meaningful song on the record. It’s about how society sometimes puts those who commit suicide on a pedestal, but the lyrics mention how this is misguided. Still, the lyrics also make a move towards another side of the story, saying “How could he go if he’s got everything? / I’ll mourn for a kid but I won’t cry for a king.” This is from the viewpoint of people commentating on the suicide, suggesting that Tyler would mourn the death if it was genuine, as opposed to something else. Lastly, the lyrics shift towards glorifying someone’s life, not their death “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.” The song is very interesting and deep, and much more work could definitely be done trying to dig down to the true meaning.
“The Hype” is likely the most radio friendly song, with a catchy hook and more mild lyrics about pushing through hard time “Yeah, they might be talking behind your head / Your exterior world can step off instead / It might take some friends and a warmer shirt / But you don’t get thick skin without getting burnt.” This is not the deepest track, but it is a perfectly fine part of the album.
Trench is a perfectly reasonable album that most fans of the group will likely be very happy with. It’s unlikely to bring in any new hordes of fans the same way that Blurryface did, but it still stands on its legs as a fine piece of art.
Featured Image by Fueled by Ramen