Album review: twenty one pilots – Clancy

Buckle up: twenty one pilots close the book on their lore with creative, colourful and endlessly charismatic seventh album…

Album review: twenty one pilots – Clancy
Emily Carter

If you really want to know what I’m thinking,’ Tyler Joseph reveals, nine songs into Clancy. ‘Kind of feels like everybody leaves / Feeling the reality that everybody leaves…’

This is a line taken from Navigating. It’s one of the best songs twenty one pilots have ever written. But it also sums the Columbus, Ohio superstars’ seventh album perfectly. For the past 15 years, Tyler has used music to present sensitive deep-dives into his enduring experiences with mental health. From candid early battles (‘You think twice about your life / It probably happens at night, right?’ he asks on beloved early hit Holding On To You) to emphatic messages of strength in the face of the darkest of thoughts (‘In time I will leave the city / For now, I will stay alive,’ goes 2018’s Leave The City), he’s always been a baring-his-soul kinda guy. It’s what’s made him one of the most relatable and important songwriters in rock today. But now, as he sings, it’s time to really unpack what’s going on.

Clancy is arguably the closest we’ve come so far to digging into who the 35-year-old is. Which is a surprise, actually, given it’s also set to be the final release steeped in the band’s legendary multi-album lore – a story that properly began with fifth full-length Trench but also includes 2015’s titular Blurryface character, and 2021’s Scaled And Icy. The album name itself refers to the fictional tale’s protagonist, while opener Overcompensate very literally places fans directly back into this monumental world with a fists-in-the-air introduction of, ‘Welcome back to Trench.’

For the following 11, songs, though, this is where the lore is fairly inconspicuous. But that’s no bad thing. Instead, Tyler opens up in the most breathtaking of ways, from the vulnerable insecurities of Midwest Indigo to the darkly dreamy Snap Back (‘Got a bad feeling that I’m about to break / Been a good streak, but the pressure’s overweight’) to At The Risk Of Feeling Dumb’s powerful insistence of checking in on friends who may be struggling.

Musically, it radiates personality. There’s an intimate quality to Clancy that feels like you’re not only right there with Tyler, witnessing him spill his guts, but also in the studio with the frontman and drummer Josh Dun as they giddily experiment and let it all out. They’ve long been one of alternative music’s most unique bands, but on Clancy there’s a confidence in showcasing absolutely everything they’re capable of.

Of the non-singles, the aforementioned Midwest Indigo is an early highlight, Tyler’s upbeat poppy piano and sing-along revelations providing a glorious contrast to each other. Routines In The Night and Vignette are welcome splatters of weirdness; the former is full of electronics while also being beautifully stripped-back, and the latter is twenty one pilots at their most forward-thinking, from falsetto choruses to a theremin, rapping and birds chirping (somehow, this does in fact all work within the space of three minutes and 22 seconds).

Much like an attempted escape away from Dema, it’s a real adventure, full of twists and turns. The Craving (Jenna’s Version) hears the singer pay tribute to his wife with a strikingly raw performance, before he takes aim at the music industry on Lavish over hypnotising orchestral flourishes. Bonus: this one also includes the ridiculously fun line: ‘I say whatever and whatever that I want / Sip a Capri-Sun like it’s Dom Pérignon…’

Then we get to Navigating. A Bloc Party-esque banger propelled by Josh’s relentless drumming, this is the prime example of twenty one pilots at their peak, fusing together a seemingly inescapable downward spiral with electrifying dance-rock: ‘Pardon my delay,’ the frontman anxiously exclaims, ‘I’m navigating my head.’

As always, though, when there’s twenty one pilots, there’s also hope. The feel-good simplicity of Oldies Station hears Tyler encourage – to the listener, but also to himself – ‘When darkness rolls on you / Push on through.’ It means a lot. And then, finally, we return to the world of Trench with album closer Paladin Strait. To write too much on this one would be to ruin the past few years of thoughtful and careful creation, so we’ll just say this: make sure you listen to all six-and-a-half minutes, right ’til the very end. If you’re a keen follower of the story, it’ll probably leave your jaw on the floor.

In the future, Tyler and Josh may move away from these concepts, or create something else entirely. Who knows? Either way, Clancy is a triumphant full-stop. Nine years on from where the seeds of the idea were first planted with Blurryface – not to mention that album’s subsequent extraordinary success – twenty one pilots are flying higher than ever.

Verdict: 5/5

For fans of: My Chemical Romance, Panic! At The Disco, grandson

Clancy is out now via Fueled By Ramen. Catch twenty one pilots on their world tour throughout 2024 and 2025 – get your tickets here.

Read this: Trench: The story of twenty one pilots’ most ambitious album ever

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