Completely and utterly ridiculous.
No doubt if you are reading this review you are well aware of Twenty One Pilots, an Ohio duo (comprised of Tyler Joseph and Joshua Dun) that are perhaps the best live band to ever grace the stage. No doubt my review of this album will be clouded by my own fangirl attitude towards the band, and indeed, on receiving the stream I think many of my fellow library occupiers were slightly bemused by my reaction.
Blurryface feels like the older, more mature brother of their first studio album, Vessel. A older brother who has a keen love of dub-step. The album is very well groomed, but perhaps in parts slightly too over produced. However, Tyler Joseph’s lyrics are forever the showcase of Twenty One Pilots’ music, and Blurryface does not lessen this expectation. Steering away slightly from the focus on his faith and his own struggles with depression, Tyler sings/raps about love, life, family, and you, with the oh so casual elements of the negatives of government and capitalism. The fans are the main focus of their music, and they have aptly named themselves the ‘Skeleton Clique’.
No doubt this album has been produced with the vision of live performance, from the face-melting ‘Lane Boy’, to the almost groovy ‘Ride’. However, don’t fear an exhausting show, for ‘House of Gold’ has a similarly acoustic fellow in the form of ‘The Judge’ and the bittersweet ‘Goner’. This album fills me with complete and utter excitement for seeing them live, even if UK tour tickets are becoming a battle to obtain.
The opening of the track feels like the beginning of a gaming soundtrack. Tyler jumps into a steady flow, almost indistinguishable on first listen. My favourite lyrics in this song are: “Gangsters don’t cry, therefore I’m Mr Misty Eyes”. This track feels more like a Calvin Harris dance track than a Twenty One Pilots poem, although this inspires hope in mainstream appeal, and dance clubs finally playing something other than Disclosure and ‘Turn Down For What’. This track will no doubt feature on many a workout playlist over the coming year. Purchase some ear plugs if you haven’t already, this track will make your ears bleed live.
Already released, this song is not complete without its music video, which includes giant trikes, secret handshakes, and Capri-Suns. It’s our clear visual introduction to the self-consciously suffocating Blurryface, the suspected alter-ego of Tyler Joseph, represented through the strange black markings on his hands and neck. Give it a listen for a taste of what’s to come.
What sound like steel drums introduces you to ‘Ride’. This song had my foot tapping throughout the duration of the song. Almost every song encapsulates this structure of explosive crescendo followed by near silence. “I’ve been thinking too much”. “We have a list of people we would take a bullet for them, a bullet for you, a bullet for everyone in this room, but they don’t seem to see many bullets coming through”. “metaphorically I’m the man, but literally I don’t know what I’d do”. “Who would you live for? Who would you die for? Would you ever kill?”. One of my personal favourites off the album, be ready for it.
‘Fairly Local‘ was the first track to be dropped off the new album. A personal disappointment on my first few listens, and perhaps the only track on the album I will actually skip if it comes to it. The track introduces us to the quite drastic change to their sound, and also to this mysterious Blurryface, which the album is named after.
Tear In My Heart:
This track was released when I was in the midst of a completely internet-less area of the UK. The track more than made up for my time without phone signal once I had it downloaded on my phone. It is a joyous song, and made all the more lovely by the inclusion of Tyler’s wife in the music video. Perhaps my favourite lyric off the album would have to be: “my taste in music is your face”.
Very recently leaked, and forcing the label (Fueled By Ramen) to release the audio officially, this song will prepare you for what you’re about to hear on tracks like ‘Doubt’ and ‘Polarize’. Already receiving harsh criticism for reasons that are beyond me, but relating to the music industry and racism, this song highlights that “there’s a few songs on this record that feel common” which is something I have to quietly agree with. Nothing Twenty One Pilots will ever produce will be dull or not worth note, yet moments in the album feel forced by the band, as if music business fat cats wouldn’t let them have their own musical way to an extent. It seems over-production sells.
This song feels like ‘House of Gold”s cousin. The ukulele fills the track at the start of the song, with the “four walls declar[ing]him insane”. “I’m a pro at imperfections and I’m best friends with my doubt”. The mood of the album is ever morphing and ‘The Judge’ provides a much needed respite between ‘Lane Boy’ and ‘Doubt’
In all honesty, I had to double check the author of the track once it reached the chorus. But indeed, this song is the marmite of the album; it does stitch the album together, yet its so completely different to everything previously released by a band so wildly complex and unpredictable. Jason Derulo and other artists would do well to take a few pointers from this song, proving that R&B can mould almost seamlessly with emotional and interesting lyrics. This song might be the divider of the album, i.e. the track that everyone skips, but no doubt you will be pressing play at house parties.
‘Doubt’ almost unnoticeably transfers into ‘Polarize’, continuing this strange out-of-body experience when listening to such a strongly hip-hop influenced Twenty One Pilots track. “I think I lost my halo”. My only real problem so far with this album is the mainstream inspiration. With so much of modern music still comprised of white artists that borrow or flat out steal from smaller artists, tending to be from ethnic minorities, it seems that 2014-2015 is now obsessed with hip-hop, ghetto, and electronic music. This song is unfortunately curving to the pressure of this ghettoisation of music, which in turn steals sales from those who created the sound, the heirs to the music. The vocals are occasionally oddly accented, but overall the song is fun and easy to dance to. I just can’t help but sense this strange immorality to the music.
We Don’t Believe What’s On TV:
Opening with what ironically sounds like the beginning of an advert I can’t place (but now I realise sounds strangely like the Asda advert song), this song feels the most organic of the pack, scuffing and scrabbling in places that the previous two tracks glided over. The imperfections of Twenty One Pilots’ songs are perhaps the main attraction, a rejection of that mainstream engineered garbage you all know and love to hate. This song is the slightly disheartened looking cherry on the cake, the rough around the diamond, but still delightful and delicious.
Someone most definitely needs to have a sit down with this album and have a count through the number of no’s and yeah’s that are said in this album. Please. The bass in this track should come with a health and safety warning when performed live, no doubt the roof will be raised.
At this point we are so far off the disfigured and beaten path that is Twenty One Pilots’ previous music, I’m not sure where we are anymore. The song sounds like a strange mixture of MGMT and U2… Yeah I’m not sure how either. Indeed, that ever-present piano backtrack is still audible, but this song feels slightly too distanced from what I know and love from the band that even in my haze of fandemonium I feel slightly disjointed from the song on first listen. Fortunately, all the songs Twenty One Pilots produce will no doubt grow upon you, particularly once you have seen the duo live.
More peculiarity until the screams of Tyler and him declaring ‘I’m out of my mind’. The strange gospel-like chorus should lend itself well in live situations, but overall the ending of the album is odd and unusual, particularly the part that is just Tyler singing ‘bah, bah, bah’ to triumphant trumpeting and more of that incessant hand clapping.
We are bid adieu to the album by the slightly more intense best friend of ‘Truce’. This song is perhaps the emotional exorcism of the album, the death of this alter-ego: ‘Blurry’s the one I’m not. I need your help to take him out’. Beginning hushed and silently, a barely audible drumming from Josh Dun rises and dies with every verse, and the track eventually ends up in a vortex of screaming and crashing, which dies as quickly as it starts. It’s rough on the ears, and would be completely glorious at an emotional midnight alone.
Overall, the album is completely and utterly ridiculous. It is everything and nothing that you want. I don’t know whether to love it or leave it. All I know is that it will be on repeat until their next album is released in a few years, and that every penny left from my student loan and wages will be put towards seeing these two kids live. Thank you Tyler, and thank you Josh. You have probably saved more lives than you can (and should) fully understand, and I hope your music continues to inspire it’s listeners with hope and excitement.
Blurryface is available for pre-order now. The release date is the 18th May.