Twenty One Pilots are out for world domination, as is made entirely evident on Trench, the fifth full-length LP from the dynamic duo from Columbus, Ohio. From the first gripping notes on “Jumpsuit,” it’s clear that Twenty One Pilots are calling the masses to join them in their quest for being the biggest band in the world. The fact that this album is outstanding shouldn’t stand in the way of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun from accomplishing their goal.
Having previously heard the outstanding production of the singles such as “Levitate,” “Nico and the Niners,” and the aforementioned “Jumpsuit,” I had the inclination that Twenty One Pilots would continue to raise the bar on the already-lofty expectations for the artist. Holy hell, they pulled it off.
The first thing that stood out to me while listening to this comprehensive 14-track set is how damn good the production is throughout. Trench was produced by Tyler Joseph and Paul Meany (Mutemath), and they both hit a home run on this one. I was blown away by their other collaborative work, the EP TOP x MM, that was released for free back in December 2016, that featured several “reimagined” versions of songs from Blurryface as well as the brilliant single, “Heathens.” This continued collaboration is paying significant dividends for Twenty One Pilots as they continue to strive for a more organic sounding type of album that shines brightly.
Tracks such as “My Blood” are pulled off with what appears to be utter ease and swagger, and who could blame these guys? This band has hit another peak in their career that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. As far as the rest of the record, I would describe it as “rap that makes you think, reflect and then move forward.” A lot of what comes after “My Blood” is down-tempo and brooding, but that does not detract at all away from the overall quality of the record.
“Chlorine” finds the duo stretching out the limitations (if there are any ) of the group, and experiment with unique beats, self-created samples, and loops for one of their catchier songs in the set. While “Smithereens” is basically a Twenty One Pilots’ take on a slow jam, or ballad, the jazzy, yet summery vibes found on this song will likely be released as a single by the time Spring rolls around. Assuming that the band and its label take an aggressive promotional approach to treat nearly every song as a single. Keep in mind, this is also the same band that had every single song on Blurryface certified Platinum, not just the singles.
My favorite song is the thought-provoking “Neon Gravestones” with its heart-wrenching and reflective lyrics at the end where Joseph raps, “I’m not disrespecting what was left behind/Just pleading that it does not get glorified/Maybe we swap out what it is that we hold so high/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.” Those last few lines hit me hard. As I get to a steady middle age, I wish I still had my grandparents to lean on for advice in this mad, mad world that seems so doomed to repeat the same mistakes of our ancestors.
“The Hype” is a strong song on the record as well, as TOP still find time to get some tongue-in-cheek lyrics in about their rise to superstardom. As big as this band is getting and will continue to get after this record, they seem pretty down to Earth about having the same doubts and anxiety that many of us struggle with.
“Cut My Lip” rocks like a Reggae song on acid, with trippy guitar vibes, and a gently played piano backing the soaring vocal delivery of Joseph. The time signatures used by Dun on this particular track stood out to me as incredibly unique and bring his flavor to the song. “Bandito” is another song that leans heavily on the piano backing to tell the story in the song. Lyrics by Joseph such as, “In city, I feel my spirit is contained/Like neon inside the glass, they form my brain/But I recently discovered/It’s a heatless fire” show his desire to let us into his mind-space while creating this record.
The closing trio of “Pet Cheetah,” “Legend” and “Leave the City” close out this brilliant and reflective chapter of Twenty One Pilots’ career. “Pet Cheetah” continues the brooding and down-tempo vibes from the middle portion of the record, with the exception of an aggressive rapped verse at the halfway point in the song. “Legend” sounds like if Billy Joel collaborated with Twenty One Pilots on a contemporary song for the ages, and “Leave the City” is just a gorgeous way of ending an amazingly thoughtful work of art that is Trench. While casual fans may not like the direction they went on Trench from the immediately gratifying Blurryface record, this LP rewards those who take the time to get to know it and grow with Twenty One Pilots on their odyssey.