Twenty One Pilots’ new album “Trench” (Fueled By Ramen) is every bit as good as its hugely successful 2015 breakthrough “Blurryface.”
Every song on “Blurryface” went gold, platinum or multiplatinum — the first album to do so in history. That’s tough to top. But if anyone’s going to, it’s these two guys from Ohio — vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun.
“Trench” is the 14-track, fifth album from the duo (with songwriting help from Paul Meany). And it’s every bit as good as “Blurryface,” continuing the band’s genre-bending trademark of tackling various styles and showcasing a knack for songwriting.
Twenty One Pilots — coming to Chicago for a sold-out show Oct. 17 at the United Center — open “Trench” with the throbbing bass line of “Jumpsuit,” filled with insecurity in the lyrics (“I can’t believe how much I hate/ Pressures of a new place roll my way”).
Then, it’s on to Dun’s kinetic drumming on “Levitate,” followed by a blissed-out and terrific “Morph” and The Killers-like, falsetto-fueled “My Blood.”
Later, there’s the reggae-tinged “Nico and the Niners,” the ’80s-sounding “The Hype” and the complex, constantly shifting “Bandito.”
We reach peak Twenty One Pilots on “Pet Cheetah,” an exhilarating and daffy tune that name-checks Jason Statham as it mixes techno, rap and rock, along with a healthy dose of reggae and house. No one out there makes music as thrilling as this.
“Trench” is a more low-key album than “Blurryface” — “Cut My Lip” and “Neon Gravestones” are slow-burners. And Joseph and Dun show maturity in not overworking songs. The last track, “Leave the City,” is a piano-driven gem with understated drumming and ghostly vocals.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Pilots record without opaque lyrics that connect the songs and the album to a larger fantasy narrative that’s spooled out over several albums and onto websites. We’ll leave all those clues — references to Dema and the bishops and Nicolas Bourbaki — to the fans on Reddit.
“Trench” finds Joseph in a confident mood lyric-wise, even mocking songwriting itself. “Chorus, verse, chorus, verse/ Now here comes the eight,” he sings on “Levitate.” On “Smithereens,” he croons: “For you, I’d go write a slick song just to show you the world.”
He’s done that. He’s made another album full of them.