Review: Twenty One Pilots – Clancy


Twenty One Pilots
Elektra Records
Street: 05.24
Twenty One Pilots = Panic! At The Disco + BoyWithUke / The Naked Brothers Band 

The emo phase will get us all—whether laundered deep in your workout playlist or on full display with Sharpie black eyeliner and red tie to match. Some hit their midlife thinking they’re too mature for that kind of music, only to break down in larynx-tortured screeches when My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to The Black Parade” pops up on the FM. Others still shuffle through their swollen 24-disc binder for the right type of angst today. “Should we pick some Fall Out Boy? Too POP-y! Maybe some Breaking Benjamin? Not stormy enough outside for this June afternoon!” Times may change, but the burdens of repressed feelings and thoughts need to come out regardless. One band that has stuck around for those in need is the alternative emo rock pair Twenty One Pilots. The drip-drop dreary vocals of Tyler Joseph accompanied by the cell wall-battering percussions of Josh Dun create ultramodern alchemy while bringing awareness to mental health struggles and the repercussions of fame in the same breath. With their seventh studio conceptual album Clancy out now, does it still scream out the same poignant knock from their decade-long journey?

Now, before taking the plunge into the album, my past history into occult research was drawn out excessively (which I was never expecting). Pretty soon, I was enthralled with blacked-out, SCP Foundation letters torn Necronomicon-esque pages from the album’s titled character. There was an expansive analysis of this religious war between “The Nine Bishops” and “The Banditos,” stemming back to the rise of Blurryface. This is some Gravity Falls level of subliminal, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it detail that has all led up to this moment. Let’s hope Joseph and Dun made it all worth it…

Clancy inherits a mixed bag of many malaise-ridden, angsty rock stylings that a lot of us have discovered time and time again. Tracks like “Overcompensate” feel grimy with sci-fi action flick thwomps and echoing backtracks. It’s a shifting of reality sound that makes you on-edge, but you can’t turn down the volume just yet. “Next Semester” is sucker-punchy in a garage punk guzzle, yet is upbeat like a back-to-school advertisement. It’s that kind of rock song that may seem like a generic groove right now, but you’ll be in your late-20s thinking “damn, this song is a fucking banger.” Then we come across “Vignettes” or “Lavish,” where we’re no longer curb-stomping the soles out of your Vans high-tops. Now, you’re closing your eyes and two-stepping. Don’t let the slowed-down metronome fool you—there’s still those emotional callbacks, but instead, it’s reminiscent of The Killers and the poolside, sad girl yearning for old Americana Lana Del Rey. Twenty One Pilots are covering all the bases by releasing that inner turmoil.

I would say, however, the weakest tracks on this album are the nasally Noah Floersch bops like “The Craving” or “Padalin Strait.” Joseph ditches the sad raps as Dun’s drums take the backseat with a light flutter on an acoustic. Warm buttermilk to the ears like these tracks could easily pump the brakes on any already raging heartbeat. Not to say anything is necessarily wrong, but the swayback almost slowly rolls into Sleepy Time Junction for me. I’ve nearly passed out to both these tracks on plenty of occasions—three times have been driving underneath the spaghetti bowl on I-215 Northbound to Downtown. 

Although considered a third installment to a conceptual continuation, the album breaks out the big guns in how personal each song is performed. The clever, yet simplistic poetry lyrics bring awareness to deeper mental issues like alienation, black-out periods through substance abuse or bipolar episodes, and even the glamorization of suicide. You can hear in “Next Semester” how terrifying it is to completely lose control with no recollection of what happened. “I  remember certain things / What I was wearing, the yellow dashes in the street / I prayed those lights would take me home / Then I heard, ‘Hey, kid, get out of the road!’” 

I’ll level with you for a minute—I was a bit late to the Twenty One Pilots scene. I thought “Stressed Out” was obnoxious by the fourth week I heard it on U92, thinking it was my little sister’s era of emo rock. Their hits were good. Their songs on the radio were okay (see what I did there? “Tear In My Heart” much?) Their appearance on the Suicide Squad soundtrack was tasteless, but above all, they were decent. So although my praise for Clancy undermines everything I know about the Ohio duo, it’s not really the best album I’ve heard. You could argue that it adds an inch more into source material and sound than 2018’s Trench, and melts 2021’s Scaled and Icy out of the it’s frozen depths. However, it’s teetering into an almost-forgotten album, drowned out by the dark shadow of Blurryface. Who knows? Perhaps this will be the entrance to the rabbit hole for future generations to discover the missing link to fill that emo musical void. Time will tell. –Alton Barnhart 

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