Reviewed by Tony Cummings
As all students of US pop will know, Twenty One Pilots are history makers. The Ohio-based duo are the first act in US record history to have firstname.lastname@example.org>every song on two separate albums - 2013's 'Vessel' and 2015's 'Blurryface' - certified Gold. Their engaging blend of rap and synth-pop with plenty of earworm hooks made them heroes to millions, particularly to those young people finding the pain and confusion of our modern world all but unbearable. Their "Stressed Out" single is, to my ears at least, a stone classic. Their critics were less kind, one suggesting that their lyrics showed them to be thoughtless purveyors of teenage miserabilism and another their music was "an easily digestible but generally unremarkable slurry of rock, rap and synth-pop." Such reviews possibly tell us more about the perspectives and prejudices of the reviewers than the creative ability of Joseph and Dun and one can't help but wonder whether the duo's bold declaration of Christian faith in interviews and album sleeves had something to do with critical vilification. It's particularly ironic that this, the duo's first post-pandemic album, should move away from the mental health issues that dominated their early releases and bring in occasional blasts of outright, joyful optimism. The summery pop opener is a delight you'll be hearing on Cross Rhythms radio so that the pain chronicled in the verse ("Lost my job, my wife and child/Homie just sued me") is offset by the anthemic chorus which sounds like a cross between the Beach Boys and Weezer ("My sunshine is a buzz and a light I'll be singing out/I know it's hard to believe, it's a good day"). Elsewhere, the party anthem "Saturday" could almost be a Maroon 5 song while elsewhere there are catchy hooks and clever production to show Twenty One Pilots' skills remain undiminished. And there's a message for the duo's hardcore followers in the album title 'Scaled And Icy'. It's an anagram of 'Clancy Is Dead', a reference to the protagonist of their previous 'Trench' album, to show a lyrical shift from the long tunnel some of their listeners may have been journeying in to show a place of hard won hopefulness and light.
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