“Last year I needed change of pace, couldn’t take the pace of change.”
This is the lyric that accurately sums up the course of Twenty One Pilots’ highly anticipated new album, Trench.
Unfortunately, upon first listen, the impression is that Trench is just….bland.
The opening track is a kind of fake out for the album, with singer Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun up to their usual noise. Joseph’s passionate scream-singing combined with Dun crashing away at his kit make one think the album will be a natural continuation of 2015’s massively successful Blurryface.
That’s about where things start to drop off. With Trench, the band is no longer reaching for the next big, arena-filling sound. Instead, they’ve traded experimentation for introspection.
Gone are the band’s genre-shattering sounds and (much of) Joseph’s rapid-fire delivery. Dun is relegated to the steady, loping back-beats that keep the album chugging along.
Don’t misunderstand- Trench is not a bad album. It’s full of eloquent lyrics, solid instrumentation and believable delivery. It’s just simply not a standout addition to an already stellar catalog.
It’s easy to see why a band at their level of success would choose to take this direction. TOP’s rigorous Blurryface touring schedule burned them out at the height of the album’s success. Joseph addresses this in many moments scattered across Trench, most notably on “The Hype.”
Sadly, “The Hype” just feels meta as Joseph croons about not believing it. This is how I feel about this album. With so much buildup and anticipation, Trench has been on watchlists since the fans got a whiff of the band being back in the studio. The hype has reached record levels and the final product fails to live up to it.
While Joseph never comes off as completely happy, this is not the same man that wrote Vessel. With his musical career thriving and his marriage to longtime love Jenna Joseph, he seems thoughtful and sometimes melancholy, but much more content. “Smithereens” is his love song and it’s sweet without the saccharine, a welcome break in the middle of the Trench.
“Pet Cheetah” takes the album into sonically experimental territory with its oddball lyrics and play on synths and sounds.
Joseph reaches for vintage with the jazzy sound of “Legend”, which could have easily been a fitting closing track for the album. The band closes instead with “Leave The City” keeping a tradition of slow outros for their albums.
From TOP’s early work to the success of Blurryface, Joseph and Dun kept their music wild, weird and untethered. Trench is sadly none of these things. In an unexpected twist, the singles (“Jumpsuit”, “Nico and the Niners” and “Levitate”) are the strongest tracks on the album. I expect fans will crowd behind their heroes regardless of sound, but Trench will mostly likely leave their radar in favor of revisiting the band’s earlier catalog. Perhaps TOP will reimagine the tracks for their sold-out arena tour this winter, otherwise Trench will be the band’s forgotten album.
Story by Olivia Khiel
Photos courtesy of twenty one pilots