Twenty One Pilot’s music can be criticised for many things, but up until ‘Scaled And Icy’, one thing the band’s music could never really be criticised for was being forgettable; whether the now-duo were attempting the accessible, radio-friendly pop-rock of ‘Blurryface’ or the ambitious concept album that is ‘Trench’, they largely stuck the landing (for better or for worse).
On ‘Scaled And Icy’ – an anagram of ‘Clancy is Dead’ (the protagonist of ‘Trench’) – the band scale back their ambitions and attempt to come out of the so-called ‘curse of the CD binder‘; attempting – in vain – to recreate the commercial success of their biggest hits. The album’s only half-decent – though ultimately unsuccessful – attempt at this comes in the form of ‘Shy Away’; the album’s lead single; it has the only chorus you’re likely to remember from this album after you’re first listen.
Apart from some regrettable attempts at rapping, the album has no truly awful moments. That would actually make the album memorable, when instead it is, for the most part, devastatingly banal and formulaic. The choruses of tracks like ‘The Outside’ and ‘Mulberry Street’ are so limp and insipid, they can barely be called ‘choruses’ at all.
The album does show moments of promise – however, deeply buried they are – but the band ultimately prove to be their own worst enemies in this regard. ‘Bounce Man’ is, in parts, a genuinely sweet – though never saccharine – ode to enduring friendship, but is undermined by cries of “bounce, bounce, bounce man”. ‘No Chances’ meanwhile, is largely the darkest and most affecting track on the album, but it’s message is undercut by cries of “ba-da-dum-ba-da-dum-bum”. These might not seem like massive errors – the album doesn’t make many of those – but, then again, ‘Scaled and Icy’s downfall is ultimately a tale of death by a thousand cuts; deliberate decisions to choose the palatable and inoffensive over the ground-breaking and memorable on track-after-track fatally undermine any potential the album could have had.
Best Tracks: ‘Shy Away’
Worst Tracks: ‘The Outside’, ‘Saturday’