Stoned vs. sober: Twenty One Pilots’ “Trench” salvages their reputation

Henry Netherland

Courtesy of iTunes.

Coming away from a year-long hiatus, Twenty One Pilot’s current primary revenue source is back with their third LP, “Trench.”

Comprised of singer and keyboardist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun, the duo has found massive success in their unique mashup of genres like hip-hop, EDM, reggae and ukulele ballads. To celebrate, I wanted to experience the new release both sober and stoned.


Sober listening

The record’s lead single, “Jumpsuit” has grown on me quite a bit since its initial release. Before I felt the guitar chords were incredibly rudimentary although I did enjoy the instrumental shift towards the halfway point. Through further listens, however, I have come to appreciate how much the group plays with dynamics. I just love how the group transitions from this soft, almost ambient instrumental to an incredibly explosive ending.

“The Hype” is an 80’s synth-pop tribute. It reminds me of a more commercial version of the new MGMT album, “Little Dark Age.” On the bridge, the group incorporates a ukulele into the electronic style and it actually does not sound too bad.

“Nico and the Niners” would be a total throwaway track for me had it not been for the pitched-down vocals on the chorus. In my opinion, this simple effect takes away some of the whininess from Joseph’s voice and adds a pinch of grit. Their more reggae tinged tracks can be hit or miss for me, but in this case, the reggae influence did not really work on the verses. Fortunately, the earworm chorus salvages the track.

“Legend” has a nostalgic quality in its chord progressions. The production is very much in the Twenty One Pilots wheelhouse, but the chords are reminiscent of a pop song from the 60s or even a britpop tune from the 90s.

One smoke session later…

Joseph sounds bitchier than ever during the first verse of “Morph.” However, the way he contrasts his boyish falsetto with his normal tone over these jazzy piano chords is spectacular on the chorus. It creates this call and response effect that I’m unsure whether the group has explored before.

The more I listen to “Cut My Lip,” the more aware I become of its absolute blandness. The vocal layering on the bridge sounds especially f*cking obnoxious in this state of mind.

Unfortunately the record’s closer, “Leave the City” is not nearly as dynamic as the closer “Goner” on the album “Blurryface.”Some of the electronic instrumentation is decent. I mean it’s pretty, but, Joseph is completely passionless vocally even during what is supposed to be the climatic portion of the track.

As much as I had enjoyed “Blurryface” and “Vessel,” after watching the duo skyrocket into international stardom, I questioned where they could even go stylistically that would not disappoint their now enormous fanbase. While there were only a few moments I felt emotionally encased, “Trench” gives me hope for the duo’s future. So long as the duo continues progressing and maturing their sound, they have the potential to possibly become one of the most influential artists this decade.


Overall: 6/10

Best songs: “Jumpsuit,” “Legend,” “Levitate,” “Morph,” “Nico and the Niners” and “The Hype”

Worst song: “Cut My Lip”

Henry Netherland can be reached at or on Twitter @NetherlandHenry.