The Twenty One Pilots bands at a press conference in Bangkok. Photo from Wikimedia.

With the duo Twenty One Pilots, composed of singer/songwriter Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun, coming back from hiatus in July, they announced their new concept album “Trench” a concept album about a group of people called the “Banditos” trying to escape the fictional city of Dema, which is ruled by nine bishops who cannot see the color yellow.

Jumpsuit:  The song Jumpsuit starts off with a bass riff and talks about the pressures of the music industry with the line “I can’t believe how much I hate/ pressures of a new place rolled my way/ Jumpsuit, Jumpsuit cover me.” This may also have a double meaning with the new place being Trench and Joseph is asking his Jumpsuit to cover him from the Bishops. In the video, Joseph tries to run through Trench alone, and as a consequence, despite the Banditos best efforts, gets captured by Nico, one of the nine bishops who control Dema.

Levitate: The song Levitate is a rap song that talks about Dema, the Nine Bishops, Trench, and the Bandidos. It compares the bishops to vultures and how they feed of the inhabitants of Dema. The song doesn’t have a traditional bridge and verses with only one long verse in the middle and a chorus in the beginning and the end. It criticizes the industry and country for eating up things that aren’t even of quality like vultures. The music video features the Banditos all dancing around torches and fire and in the end Joseph gets captured by Nico like in Jumpsuit’s video.

Morph: The song Morph focuses on, well, morphing. Joseph calls morphing his defense mechanism, to hide from the Bishops, or in a more grounded way of saying it, his insecurities. It is also the first song to refer to the leader of the bishops, Nico, by name, which comes in the phrase “He’s always trying to stop me/That Nicolas Bourbaki.” Joseph speaks about Nico mocking him, which happens a lot in many lyrics of the band’s song, however it is always through Joseph himself, kind of like in a Jekyll and Hyde way. Joseph describes running from Nico, and how he sees things from an unconventional perspective, which is where he gets his lyrics.

My Blood: My Blood is a song about Joseph’s brother. He talks about even through the darkest of times he will stay right by his brother’s side. The song features vocals very reminiscent of Mark Foster in the chorus. The music video also features the theme of brothers sticking with each other through and through, with it (kind of) being about sibling sticking with each other through hard times.

Chlorine: Chlorine talks about Joseph metaphorically drinking Chlorine, but not really in a self destructive way. He uses it to cleanse himself of the bad parts of him, which is kind of saying he uses Chlorine to ward off Nico. The song features some very good imagery, and very good lyrics during the rap verses. During some of the verses this song feature lyrics reminiscent of Mark Foster as well.

Smithereens: Smithereens is about Joseph’s wife Jenna. It speaks about how Joseph is regularly calm, and would never look for conflict just for fun. However, if he ever feels that Jenna is being threatened, he would immediately rush to her aid, and in the process, get beat to smithereens, as Joseph weighs 153 pounds, which is under the average weight of an American male. He also says that he would just keep writing songs for Jenna so he could make money and show her the world.

Neon Gravestones: Neon Gravestones is like a ballad, with poet-like rap verses with the piano accompanying it, and a staccato drum beat that is reminiscent of the band’s early days. It’s about the current wave of suicide, with both regular people and prominent figures. It critiques how society glorifies suicide, how they “treat a loss like it’s a win” and acting like “earlier grave is an optional way.” In the chorus, Joseph sings, “Neon gravestones try to call for my bones” which is him saying that “neon gravestones” are calling for his death just like so many other prominent figures that have died. He says that society talks about suicide prevention a lot, but we need to take action against it. He also believes that a lot of society is stuck in the mindset of “how could he go if he’s got everything/ I’ll mourn for a kid but won’t cry for a king.” He asks his fans that if “he loses to himself, they won’t mourn a day and they’ll move onto someone else.” In the end, is not trying to disrespect those who died, he just doesn’t want it to get glorified, and he wants us to celebrate people’s lives instead of remembering their deaths.

The Hype: The Hype as a song feels like a song from 10-20 years ago, with lots of electric piano. Overall, the song is kind of told from the perspective of Joseph’s younger self. It talks about maneuvering through hard times, and how even if things seem really bad, it is bound to get better.

Tyler Joseph performing in Munich 2016. Photo from Wikimedia.

Nico and The Niners: Nico and The Niners Is kind of a mesh with reggae and rap it begins with this reversed dialogue: We denounce Vialism, You will leave Dema and head true east, we are Banditos. The fact that the dialogue us reversed may be a sign that they are trying to hide it from the Bishops so that they can carry their plans on in secret. The reason they say head true east because maps of Dema are warped, and east is actually south on the map. The song is sort of a rally for the Banditos with lines like “East is Up” Talks about going higher and lower, which is a reference to how the Banditos escape Dema, through underground tunnels that are under Dema.

Cut My Lip: The song Cut My Lip Is about navigating through Dema and escaping the city. It makes you picture freedom from Dema as drinking from a glass bottle, however the price one must pay is paid through cutting one’s lip. It may also be a metaphor to the giant boost of popularity the band got in such a short time, with the consequence being Joseph cutting his lip. It also has themes of self harm through indulgence, with the theme kind of being that too much of something leading to pain.

Bandito: Bandito has a very prominent piano part, and Joseph producing lots of high notes. Like “Nico and the Niners” alludes to escaping Dema using underground tunnels with lines like “I could take the high road, but I know that I’m going low/ I’m a ban- I’m a bandito.” It tries to give the listener a sense of how the Banditos feel in Dema with lines like “This is the sound we make, when in between two places/where we used to bleed, and where our blood needs to be” When the Bandidos are in Dema, they are suffering, and they need to be outside of the city. Finally one of the lines “Sahlo Folina” is according to an AMA on Reddit with Joseph himself, is what the Banditos cry when they’re in need while in Trench. The word Sahlo in Somali means To enable. Folina is a name that means creative, with distaste for routine or plans. The phrase might also be an anagram for the phrase “All Ohio fans” which is where the band originated.

Pet Cheetah: In the first verse Joseph describes his struggle with writer’s block, and how most of his good ideas come while he sleeps, but at this point in his life, he’s struggling to come up with any. Then in the chorus, Joseph talks about thinking slowly to clear his mind, until he finds all the imperfections in the songs and corrects them. Then he speaks about having a pet cheetah in his basement, which is most likely a metaphor for his creativity. He says that he raised it and bathed it, which is a metaphor for him finding new lyrics and melodies to keep producing songs. He named the cheetah Jason Statham, who is a british actor known for his fast paced movies like in The Fast and Furious franchise, and since cheetahs are the fastest land animals on earth, that probably why he named it Jason. Joseph then talks about how important his fans are to him, and how scared he is that he might not live up to their expectations

Legend: The song “Legend” is about Joseph’s late grandfather, who died halfway through the band’s hiatus. He speaks about how his grandfather was old enough to be “classic” and how he wished that “she” knew him. “She” either is talking about Joseph’s wife Jenna, who when she met his grandfather, he was already suffering from dementia, or Joseph’s niece who was born after his grandfather died. Joseph then says that he was a “Legend” in his own mind, his middle name, and his goodbye. The first verse then says “you were here when I wrote this but the masters and mixes will take too long to finish to show you” which is pretty self explanatory. Then Joseph says that he wished he visited him, but he did not know how to take his grandfather’s dementia.

Leave The City:  This song is the one that may or may not be from Joseph’s perspective. The narrator in this song is tired of being in Dema, and living under the Bishops. They decide that one day, they are going to leave the city. However, in the chorus, the perspective goes from an unnamed narrator to Joseph speaking about his fans. The line “They know that it’s almost over” is speaking about the band’s fanbase, and how they know that the album is almost over, because Leave the City is the last song on the album. It switches back to the narrator, saying that in time he’ll leave the city, but for now he’ll just stay alive. Finally, it switches perspectives one last time to Joseph, where he says that he needed a change of pace, and that he couldn’t keep up with the pace of his change, referencing the almost random boost in popularity the band received in when their hit singles “Stressed Out” and “Ride” were released. Then he talks about trench, and how he finds comfort there away from the stress and anxiety, and how he’s not alone there.

After a year of waiting, fans finally got Twenty One Pilot’s new album Trench. And the wait was worth it. While it may not be as appealing to many newcomers, Trench manages to soar over the quality of their last album, Blurryface, which some consider it to be the duo’s best. Their music has evolved over time, and fans eagerly await to see what Joseph and Dun come up with next.

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One thought on “Album Review: Trench by Twenty One Pilots

  1. The title really caught my attention because I like to listen to Twenty One Pilots so I saw their name and quickly clicked it. I love how you got into great detail about the songs and what it was about or what it meant. You closed it off greatly with the last paragraph when you said the wait was worth it and it may not mean as much to newcomers. I do think maybe you should put an exclamation point when you said And the wait was worth it.” In my opinion it better suits it but I love this article so much!

    I did not know they came out with a new album because I mostly listen to random songs of theirs and just kind of stick to that when I listen to them. I can walk away saying though that you did make me want to listen to this new album.

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