For Fans of: Panic! At The Disco, Yungblud & Half Alive
Let me start this review off by mentioning how much of a fan of this band I used to be. They sparked my love for music with their first three albums, eventually diving deeper into the unreleased cuts. Point is, I used to be obsessed. With 2009’s self-titled, the band introduced so much creativity to the scene. Baroque inspired instrumentation with harpsichord, synthesisers and even Tyler Joseph’s (Frontman), not yet fully fledged vocals, was still great. After that, Twenty One Pilots simplified their sound more with each release. This, of course, wasn’t a bad thing… yet.
Now, in 2021, with ‘Scaled and Icy’ in front of us, it’s easy to say which direction the band went in. It seemed, maybe after how rebellious and realised ‘Trench’ was, the guys would continue their great, thematically focused legacy. Scaled and Icy for sure, does stand out, but not really in the best way. All the components are there. Varied instrumentation, great 70’s sounding drums, and cleaner than ever vocals. Anything, sonically, you could ever want in a song from these guys is here. It just doesn’t come together into anything noteworthy. Without specifically paying attention to the discography, I really don’t see why anyone could ever come across this album, unless you are at a shopping centre. It’s seriously hard not to view this thing as a sort of stock image of mainstream music today. It feeds into today’s ‘vintage’ fad unapologetically. There’s the, now inescapable synth arpeggios, lo-fi-ish production, and the aforementioned 70’s sounding drums. It does sound cool, but that’s all it is. There’s simply nothing exciting in these songs. You do get some great, energetic moments, like the scream on ‘Never Take It’ but each and every cut here follows a cookie cutter structure.
It’s super obvious that the band leaned into their label’s vision. The label, Fueled By Ramen unfortunately put one of their other big bands under this treatment too. Young the Giant, at first was the most exciting indie band we’ve had in years. Now though, it’s super clear that their slight burn out was Fueled not by ramen, but by a premature, poppy, almost sickening new sound. It’s not this exact same sound that killed this new Twenty One Pilots record single-handedly either. Just because a song sounds mainstream – it’s not a bad thing right off the bat, but when a band like this is getting consumed by it, it just hurts to watch. In their early years, Tyler and Josh Dun (Drummer) built their entire aesthetic solely based on the admirable, homemade quality. Their lyrics were heartfelt, but now they’re replaced with either “Yeah Yeah Yeahs” or listing the days of the week. This isn’t to say that the record is bad for what it is. If any of these songs came on the radio, I wouldn’t ever be bothered enough to change it. Each cut here has this weird balance between a cringe-worthy lovesick, fairytale musical cut, the edge of a 10 year old boy and radio quality catchiness. The moments where this is particularly noticeable are ‘Bounce Man’ and ‘No Chances’. The effects get cheesy super quick though. Out of the two, ‘No Chances’ is particularly offensive. There’s pitched down vocals, cheap synths, bad rap verses, and to top it all off, a calm piano accompanied, dreamlike chorus? When it all comes together, it more closely resembles a fever dream. The most annoying thing is, with these ideas fledged out a little more, none of this would be bad. The song structures in particular feel rushed. It’s all a copy and pasted, predictable mess. There is not a single moment where Tyler, and especially Josh get to show off their abilities. This album is what Imagine Dragons would make if they were tasked with writing a soundtrack to a cheesy Disney film. That’s all it is. Massively corporately defined, with the little amount of artistic substance Tyler and Josh were able to squeeze through. Perhaps it’s good that this album is this forgettable, because no dedicated fan will want to remember this. It’s just disappointing. The likeable aspects here, provide nothing more than factory made catchiness.
Favourite tracks: Shy Away, Never Take It
by Kuba Swiatek