Album Review: Twenty One Pilots’ ‘Trench’

Depression is everywhere in the media— and not even in a “I’m so despondent about Brett Kavanaugh” kind of way, but in discussions about the real thing that take place in TV thrillers (“Sharp Objects”), in pop (“1-800-273-8255”) and even on “SNL” (the first two episodes this year having featured gags about Pete Davidson’s meds… and Kanye’s). Now Twenty One Pilots have arrived with the most commercially anticipated alternative rock record of 2018, and it’s a concept album about the blues… the clinical kind.

The hit duo’s singer and songwriter, Tyler Joseph, wants to offer hope to his similarly afflicted fans but doesn’t want to be too hokey or on-the-nose about doing it, so he’s fashioned “Trench,” Twenty One Pilots’ fourth album, as (mostly) an allegory taking place in a fantasy dystopia. It also happens that this world-building also provides some different kinds of promotional opportunities for a young audience that’s grown up on YA sci-fi and gaming, so the roll-out for “Trench” has had less to do with magazine cover stories and more about semi-secret websites and cryptic clues about the characters and settings for the new album… even if the ultimate intent is to share some non-fantastical thoughts about fighting your way out of desolation.