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Twenty-One Pilots’ ‘Trench’: A Thoughtful Critique of Faith & Fame

Twenty-One Pilots releases a new album. (Photo Courtesy of PopBuzz.com)

Lou Crossan

Associate Arts and Culture Editor

Nick Gallagher

Guest Writer 

International Education Week

When we think of the multitudinous ways those who hold religious faith describe God, never before would we have guessed that among His monikers would be the word ‘Jumpsuit’ – a term referring to a one-piece outfit originally donned by casual parachuters and now widely available at your nearest Nordstrom. Nor would we have utilized ‘Pet Cheetah’ as a supplementary term for writer’s block, or ‘Chlorine’ as a means of enjoying the poisonous risk of writing music to cope with mental illness. However, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun – the duo better known as Twenty-One Pilots – have seen fit to attribute all of these and other bizarre images described with vivid and picturesque detail on Trench. This is the band’s third album signed to Fueled By Ramen Records and their fifth album overall, following the critically-acclaimed and fan-beloved Vessel and Blurryface.

One thing to note about this particular release is that it serves as a complimentary album to both Vessel and Blurryface. The music videos for Trench portray Blurryface as a character; a priest in the city of DEMA, which is the allegorical manifestation of Tyler Joseph’s clinical depression and the pain it inflicts on others around him, and with Blurryface opposed by the Banditos (identifiable by donning the titular outerwear in both the “Jumpsuit” and “Levitate” music videos) and the themes of self-reflection echoing all the way from “Car Radio” while Joseph and Dun don their skeleton costumes from the Vessel box art within the video for “My Blood.” The DEMA storyline has been chronicled in thorough detail by fans and critics alike in baited anticipation for the album’s release via AltPress’ memorialization of all the hints, and now that it’s here, we can anxiously say that the wait was well worth it.

What once seemed like an excruciatingly implausible task – coming back to the charts from a two-year hiatus with an album as versatile, poignant, and familial as the last one – has resulted in TOP’s most elegantly-crafted and touching work to date. Ranging from the pulse-pounding and anthemic opener “Jumpsuit” – a song that acts as the introduction to the DEMA storyline as well as an allegory for God’s divine protection, going so far as to incorporate crucifixion imagery as a reminder of God’s mercy – to the refreshingly funky R&B bassline swing of “My Blood” – the most radio-friendly of the album’s singles thus far (and the song most likely to stick around after the album charts on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the next week or so); all the way to the tender homage to the band’s fanbase in the form of Joseph’s favorite track to perform from the album, “Cut My Lip.” That particular track serves as subtle reminder to the Clique (TOP’s questionably over-fixated following) to persevere through all things, using the lyric “rust around the rim, I drink it anyway. I cut my lip” to bolster Tyler’s sense of enthusiasm and remind himself of fame’s fleeting nature.

Not everything on the album is as rosy at first glance though. After a few repeated listens, it becomes increasingly clear that this album is a cohesive contemplation on depression, suffering, and triumph, and how we often forget that these things don’t necessarily occur in that formulaic order. Never is this more apparent than on Trench’s most morbidly honest track “Neon Gravestones.” Here, Joseph offers a solemn and remorseful slap in reprimanding music listeners who forgive artists celebrating suicide within their lyrics and other entertainment choices (XXXTentacion’s “Sad,” Linkin Park’s “Bleed It Out,” Lil Peep’s “Awful Things,” and the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why immediately spring to mind). The song also suggests to celebrate lives well lived within our own communities (“Find your grandparents or someone of age/Pay some respects for the path that they paved/To life, they were dedicated/Now THAT should be celebrated”), rather than celebrate or mourn a celebrity’s death for weeks at a time.

In essence, Trench feels like the capstone on a saga of five albums, rather than an individual release of its own design, and yet it works equally as well as its own album. Music is a medium for community for Twenty-One Pilots and their fans. It is a coping mechanism for anxiety in addition to being a burden that songwriter Tyler Joseph willingly carries. It is a platform for sensitive topics that need to be discussed openly. It is a vessel to carry you through the blurry days when you’re neck-deep in the trenches, No Phun Intended.