In 2017, something called the Alternative Press Music Awards gave the Ohio duo twenty one pilots a prize for “Most Dedicated Fans”.
The Skeleton Clique, as they call themselves, have plenty to keep them busy. The band’s last album, Trench, was a high concept affair involving a website hidden inside a GIF, a long series of cryptic journal entries, a fictional city ruled by nine bishops, a character called Clancy who wants to escape, and Zoroastrianism. The fact that the title of this sixth album is an anagram of “Clancy is dead” has set them off all over again. One debate concerns the presence or otherwise of words hidden in the dragon’s wing on the cover.
So it’s a surprise to find that Scaled and Icy sounds like less than it seems. While Trench’s atmosphere was dark and dense, with an eclectic style ranging from nu-metal screams to alternative hip hop, this one is a sunny day, bright and poppy. The jaunty piano-led opener, Good Day, could be Hall & Oates or Billy Joel. Mulberry Street is another charming groove, a bounding puppy of a song, but the extreme catchiness levels of Bounce Man and Saturday quickly make them irritate.
The gothic electronics of No Chances stand out as something different, but otherwise the sound is uniformly upbeat, with frontman Tyler Joseph mostly sidelining his rapping in favour of an energetic singing style that has greatest appeal over the chiming guitars of Formidable. Is it worth sticking around to hunt for secret messages though? Not really.