You’re on a date, in an Uber, heading to a romantic location. Would you slightly be listening to a podcast wherein your ex-wife is laying naked the dissolution of your relationship, or the brand new Twenty One Pilots single? For BoJack Horseman’s Mr. Peanutbutter, the selection is all too simple. “Ew, again to the podcast,” the oblivious, tongue-wagging canine actor coolly requests after his killer whale driver (that is BoJack Horseman, in spite of everything) gives him and his date Pickles a quick respite from listening to ex Diane Nguyen discuss trash on his failings as a accomplice. If you’re not an everyday BoJack viewer, that sentence would possibly elicit quite a lot of questions, however after watching the scene throughout the present’s good fifth season, I solely had one: What does this adorably silly golden retriever have towards Twenty One Pilots?
Dating again at the least to the times of Nickelback, the tradition surrounding pop music — particularly because it exists by way of the lens of social media — has usually thrived on rallying round frequent villains. Ironically, many of the ire directed towards these aforementioned Canadian lunkhead-rockers pale into limitless, good-natured memedom because the digital age swallowed the discourse complete, however targets massive and small have since popped up: Taylor Swift clearly looms massive, Rita Ora and Jessie J’s inexplicable and occasional ubiquity has been recognized to rankle pop’s nerdier set, and Macklemore and the Chainsmokers each took turns within the crosshairs throughout their moments of Zeitgeist dominance.
You might argue that Post Malone has since taken up the mantle of in style music’s public enemy No. 1 — however his continued success and surprisingly endearing persona have turned a lot of his detractors into grudging admirers, and regardless of notching a Top 10 hit this yr, comedy-rap bonehead du jour Lil Dicky’s not fairly there but by way of mass visibility. There’s a void within the place which our collective pop coronary heart hates — are two post-genre pop-rock alchemists from Columbus, Ohio, actually meant to fill it?
When contemplating the disparate components of their ascent — from punk-adjacent Fueled by Ramen upstarts to the primary act in RIAA historical past to have each monitor on their album obtain a Gold certification — the ire directed their method makes a little bit of sense. Most of most people’s introduction to Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun’s polyglot sound was 2015’s “Stressed Out,” taken from the aforementioned record-breaking Blurryface from that yr; the only peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and featured the previous’s rapping — arguably probably the most noxious high quality of Twenty One Pilots’ sound —entrance and heart. Fellow album lower “Ride” was equally profitable, peaking at No. 5 on the power of a reggae-centric construction not in contrast to Canadian fake-patois goons Magic!’s simply hateable hit “Rude.”
Keeping in step with their kitchen-sink style strategy established from 2009’s self-titled debut on, Blurryface featured strung-out hip-hop beats and blasts of grating EDM rubbing elbows with hammy, theater-kid piano figures — and did I point out the rapping? “This is just not rap, this isn’t hip-hop,” Joseph spits on opening monitor “Heavydirtysoul,” one of some songs within the band’s discography that additionally alludes to his training Christian religion, “Rapping to show nothing/ Just writing to say one thing.” In our post-Macklemore local weather, bars like these coming from a man who appears to be like like this will invite the kind of mass derision that MAGA hat-wearers solely dream of.
Keeping all of this in thoughts, I’ve some horrible information for Twenty One Pilots’ would-be detractors: they’re really getting … higher. The duo’s fifth album Trench dropped final Friday, and Joseph and band mate Josh Dun are persevering with to refine their sound with reasonably interesting outcomes. It stays to be seen whether or not it packs the hit-charting capability that Blurryface — which debuted on the prime of the Billboard 200 on week of launch — surprisingly possessed; it actually doesn’t appear to augur properly that solely one among Trench’s 4 singles (the beating “Jumpsuit”) has cracked the highest 50 of the Hot 100. But keep in mind that “Ride” reached its chart peak a full yr after the album’s launch, and that rock-leaning acts within the 2010s have been fortunate to see such chart success as soon as of their total careers, by no means thoughts per album cycle. Chart-wise, that is long-game music.
Lest you suppose they’ve completely shed their most doubtlessly divisive qualities, there’s nonetheless a little bit of rapping and a reggae-ish rhythm right here and there, in addition to a imprecise conceptual bent with discuss of fictional cities and nefarious bishops. But Trench’s mid-level highs are simple sufficient to get pleasure from without having a Coheed & Cambria–esque grimoire to kind all of it out.
Trench was co-produced by Joseph and Paul Meany of fellow faith-adjacent rockers Mutemath, and the album as an entire possesses the type of cool-handed neon sound that briefly put Meany’s important act on the buzz-making map within the 2000s. Still a going concern, Mutemath’s 2006 self-titled debut represented one of some situations within the period of MP3 blogs the place bands might accrue grassroots reputation by the use of sounding like Pitchfork-beloved indie acts with out really being coated by Pitchfork; equally, there are quite a lot of moments on Trench — the M83-aping closing monitor “Leave the City,” “Morph“‘s watery PBR&B refrain, the full-band bombast of “Cut My Lip” that sound like they’d enchantment to that indie-centric website’s readership circa 5 – 6 years in the past.
The easy, slippery digital pop-rock of Trench basically smooths Twenty One Pilots’ eccentricities in a method that makes their sound extra palatable than ever earlier than — an controversial enchancment over their previous work that nonetheless feels ominous for his or her future. In his detrimental writeup of the album, music critic Steven Hyden laments Trench’s placid, mid-tempo, no-right-angles sound and attributes it to extra nefarious technological advances within the music trade: “What streaming has finished is implore artists to dial again the obnoxiousness, sand off the tough edges, and excise the rest which may intrude with the limitless move of rigorously modulated knowledge pouring out of your laptop computer audio system.”
Indeed, it’s not arduous to think about one thing just like the ghostly pitter-patter of the psychological well being–targeted “Neon Gravestones” segueing completely right into a Post Malone single, or becoming completely in a curated playlist designed for days when life’s received you down. There’s nothing on Trench that comes near hinting on the sonic stridency Twenty One Pilots possessed prior to now — and though its even-keeled vibe is perhaps a boon for his or her streaming numbers, it additionally threatens to render them extra nameless than ever, pointing to a future wherein their faces blur previous the purpose of hateability and towards complete obsolescence.