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Warner Music Australia

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Words by Angela Croudace

Twenty One Pilots‘ eighth studio album, Clancy, bridges the gap between their established sound and new sonic explorations. The genre-hopping duo known for their eclectic sound, return with their much-anticipated release, with the album making an entry this week at Number 1 on the ARIA Top 50 Albums Chart. Unafraid to experiment and push boundaries, Clancy is a wild ride through the band’s evolution.

The band takes a sharp turn away from the breezy pop of their 2021 album, Scaled and Icy on Clancy. Gone are the light, radio-friendly melodies, replaced by a more complex, layered soundscape. The album throws listeners back to the band’s genre-defying roots, this time with a surprising dose of punk rock energy.

The first track, Overcompensate, transports listeners to their 2018 album Trench‘s dark, atmospheric sonic landscape, with pounding basslines and Tyler Joseph‘s distinctive rapping vocals. However, the track rapidly erupts. It’s a high-octane return to their traditional mix of rap, catchy lyrics, and driving beats, but with a modern twist of synths and distortion. The chorus demonstrates the band’s ability to once again effectively merge styles. This was the first single released in February, and I’m sure the entire neighbourhood was sick of me screaming this dangerously addictive melody over my stereo until they released the rest of the album.

Routines In The Night and Lavish feature a more poppy feel, demonstrating the band’s ability to branch out from their trademark emo, punk compositions, with Lavish sounding like it was written for an impending comedy film that has yet to be released (watch the hilarious music video, you’ll understand what I mean!). Again, these two are catchy with more straightforward beats and could almost make you question whether these songs are by the same band that produced Blurryface.

Backslide is a more personal, heavy, emotional song in which Joseph sounds like he’s pleading vocally with drawn-out notes that carry the song’s melody. The lyrics use vivid imagery to depict the act of backsliding, laden with metaphors or references to past mistakes. The song’s tempo reflects this, with a slower pace generating a more melancholy sound than their typical high-energy tracks, featuring their signature drum patterns alongside electronic elements.

Much like Backslide, Vignette lyrically delves deep into the human psyche, portraying a battle against inner demons. The song explores self-doubt, denial, and the struggle to maintain identity in overwhelming darkness. The lyrics, combined with an overwhelming crashing chorus of drums and piano layered with Joseph’s vocals, make this song cogent; it packs a punch!

At the Risk Of Feeling Dumb and Next Semester throw it back to Twenty One Pilot’s rock and punk roots, with these two songs serving as a welcome return to the punk (sometimes bordering on screamo) elements the band is known and loved for. Punchy riffs and pounding rhythms propel these songs towards a stronger sound filled with explosive synths, resulting in racing punk anthems powered by distorted guitars.

The album’s emotional core shines through introspective ballads like Oldies Station, Paladin Strait and The Craving (Jenna’s Version). Joseph’s lyrics delve into themes of self-doubt, anxiety, and the complexities of human connection. The ukulele is utilised heavily on these tracks, resulting in a glorious amalgamation of rich harmonics infused with Joseph’s warm vocals.

Tyler Joseph is a man of many instruments, and he uses this to his advantage on the album, which features an array of instruments played throughout, such as the ukulele, piano, and synthesiser, in addition to their usual guitar, bass, and drums, which only adds to the band’s flair for genre-bending by introducing instruments not typically played in rock or punk.

While some might find the constant genre-shifting jarring, Clancy feels cohesive thanks to the band’s tight musicianship and knack for crafting catchy melodies. It’s a testament to their ability to take risks and defy expectations.

Clancy is a bold and ambitious effort from Twenty One Pilots, evident in their demand for a music video to accompany every track on the album. It’s an album that rewards repeat listens and cements their status as one of the most innovative and exciting bands in music today.

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