To say twenty one pilots took the world by storm would be quite an understatement. Their fourth album (second label album) Blurryface was the first album in history to have every track receive at least a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America. The duo took over the radio waves with “Ride,” and “Heavydirtysoul,” and won a Grammy for “Stressed Out,” in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category. Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun traveled the world on tour playing almost every major festival in the U.S., and released a smash single “Heathens,” as part of the ‘Suicide Squad,’ promotion. After their ‘Tour de Columbus,’ a five-date hometown tour in June of 2017 the band went dark, signing off from all social media.
Hidden messages began appearing on their official website leading to a website that included cryptic letters, images, and hints of a new album. In July they broke their silence, releasing two new songs, a music video, and the official announcement for the new album and tour.
Trench is the band’s fifth album but third album released through Fueled by Ramen. The album represents another step in their musical evolution, varying from heavy hitting emotional lyrics from Joseph to get-out-of-your-seat-and-dance infectious beats.
The album opens with “Jumpsuit,” one of the first singles released back in July. The heart-thumping bass-line immediately jumps out while it is contrasted with Joseph’s laid-back vocals. The song builds up into an finale explosion of bass and Joseph’s iconic screaming (think “Car Radio”) that’ll really get the blood flowing. It transitions into “Levitate,” a track that almost exclusively features Joseph’s rapping paired with Dun’s fast paced drumming. This song starts the Trench story line and relates back to the cryptic messages posted months ago on hidden websites: “This culture is a poacher of overexposure, not today / Don’t feed me to the vultures, I am a vulture who feeds on pain,” and the final line, “Welcome to Trench.”
“Morph,” takes on a different sound, featuring a catchy synth beat mixed melodically with Dun’s drums. The chorus features Joseph’s vocal range, hitting the high notes that create a feel-good chill infectious hook. “My Blood” maintains the upbeat catchy hooks, creating another song that will inevitably be blasted over the airwaves in the next few weeks. Speaking of songs that will be blasted over the radio, “Chlorine,” has that formula down cold, with a chorus that will get stuck in your head and relatively repetitive refrains.
Joseph’s raw and vulnerable vocals return for “Smithereens,” sounding like his old emotional and deep self that seemed to be absent on Blurryface. “Neon Gravestones,” is the first song that really features the piano paired with emotional lyrics touching back on depression and suicide (Don’t get me wrong, the rise in awareness is beating a stigma that no longer scares us / But for sake of discussion, in spirit of fairness, could we give this some room for a new point of view?).
The mood switches back to the happier side with “The Hype,” with the chorus sounding like a modern “Wonderwall.” The moods shifts between up-beat drums with “Nico and the Niners,” (I’m still convinced this sounds like a stoner song but who knows) and more emotional with “Cut My Lip.”
One of the last two songs, “Legend,” is probably one of my favorites from the album. It has all the features of the classic twenty one pilots songs: a catchy beat, the return of the ukulele, and a happy mood singing about depressing topics. This is very much an ode to Joseph’s grandfather who was featured on the cover of Vessel and passed away earlier this year. Joseph comments about how they share a name, “You’re a legend in my own mind / My middle name / My goodbye,” and writing the song for him, “You were here when I wrote this / But the masters and mixes will take too long to finish / To show you / I’m sorry I did not visit / Did not know how to take it / When your eyes did not know me / Like I know you.” He includes a heartfelt goodbye at the end after his grandfather passed, “Then the day that it happened / I recorded this last bit / I look forward to having a lunch with you again.”
Twenty One Pilots have always had a tradition of making their final song an emotional get-the-tissues-ready tearjerker and this is no exception. It is very much a conclusion to the whole experience that is Trench, whatever you make that to be. Joseph said in an interview with Apple Beats 1, “…this record is about pushing through and starting that, starting that journey between those two places…in this record I did not define what that ‘where you’re supposed to be’ is. There’s no name for it, that’s not defined, and that was intentional.” The lyrics, “In Trench I’m not alone,” and the final line, “They know what I mean,” hints at that impersonal/personal lyrics the band has always had with their fans, letting them find their own meaning in every song.
Trench represents everything Joseph and Dun have experienced over the past three years on the road, in life, and in their own personal journey. It takes the listener everywhere from happy to sad, and the happy but singing about sad things. While the album as a whole is not as deep as Vessel or twenty one pilots, that doesn’t mean it is necessarily worse. This album represents a journey Joseph and Dun have gone through and invites the listener to join them while making their own meaning, something that the two have always advocated for.
“The meaning of purpose is by creating something that only you know the meaning of it – that’s the beginning of purpose for you.”
Stream the album below: