ALBUM REVIEW: Twenty One Pilots – Scaled and Icy
Photo Credit: Mason Castillo
What do you think when you hear the words Twenty One Pilots? You think edginess, vulnerability, catchy alternative anthems, and sipping on straight chlorine. What comes to mind is certainly not what is entailed in the band’s fifth record.
That being said, Ohio-based duo Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun return with Scaled and Icy – a record which holds back on the gritty edginess of their previous records in favour of a sound that depicts two people that are more settled down in their life.
This statement is blatantly clear from the very start. Opener Good Day sounds like a track that would be played by a DJ at a five-year old’s birthday party – with its simple melody and jolly piano piece that continues seemingly forever.
After a confusing start, Choker sees the Twenty One Pilots that our ears a bit more familiar to. Josh’s jungle style drum sample added with an emotive violin and piano section creates a lovely sounding bridge and verse. Tyler’s humming is a lovely addition. It’s a track that is reminiscent of the bands 2009 song Addict With A Pen.
What follows next is lead single Shy Away. The single is an unapologetic pop track that is built around a grand chorus. It is a very safe track that is quite clearly made for airplay. The song hosts another simple stripped back instrumental style, with an 80s pop synth that echoes throughout the track.
It is nothing mind-blowing, however we would be lying if we said that the track does not stick around in your head for a while after, so in that sense, the track fits its purpose.
Other tracks on this record such as Saturday and Bounce Man follow a similar narrative. The former is undoubtedly the biggest pop song the band have ever done. It just does not feel like Twenty One Pilots at all. In these tracks, it feels like they have abandoned the vulnerable and honest lyrical content as well their insanely unique alternative instrumental style which made them one of the biggest bands of the 2010s, in favour of becoming a full-on pop band.
However, what lies in between these two tracks is The Outside. The track carries an unorthodox but stylish synth and contains some fun lyrics about Tyler’s relationship with the clique (Twenty One Pilots fanbase) as seen in the singer viewing himself as an extinct shark – “I am a Megalodon, ocean’s feeling like a pond, swimming like beast, underneath, they be clinging on.”
Never Take It’s critique of modern day media is effective in its lyrical content (“they’re trying hard to weaponize you and I, we’ll never take it”) but fails to really deliver its important message with any sort of instrumental impact.
Mulberry Street is another one for the five-year old’s birthday party. Interestingly, Formidable sounds almost like a Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever track with its strong indie-rock core and guitar solos in which the track revolves around. The track has a nice bridge section, but yet again, the track fails to make a real impact, and is really quite average – which is not a word you would associate with Twenty One Pilots, but you would with a lot of this album.
Saying that, average is no word to describe No Chances. Its eerie production and glitchy synth sound so slick and sounds like a classic Twenty One Pilots track with its catchy group chorus (which is performed by Tyler’s brother and his friends) contrasting with the general creepiness of the track perfectly. It is like your stuck in some kind of matrix with no escape.
The short stories in Redecorate end the record on a high. These true stories that talk about the thoughts that go through the head of three separate people before their deaths are harrowingly good. Tyler’s lyricism and Josh’s low-key beat and strong chorus nail the final track of the album.
So, Scaled and Icy is no ordinary Twenty One Pilots record. Its mostly unsuccessful pop tracks feel lazy and lethargic, but the album does succeed in other aspects. The production is spot on, and the record does contain glimpses of the Twenty One Pilots fans from across the world have fallen in love with over the last decade or so, but make no mistake, this is no classic record.
Standout Tracks: Choker, The Outside, No Chances
For Fans Of: Panic! At The Disco, I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME, Waterparks
Written by: Joe Loughran