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Joseph and Dun, while able to vault anywhere from funky pop to alternative hip hop to indietronica, present diverse tracks that are stronger individually rather than together. They unpredictably and illogically shift from bliss to blame, and while volatility used to be the duo’s strength, it’s more distracting than calculated on Scaled And Icy.
“Never Take It,” for example, makes for an overstuffed yet somehow insipid political statement, pointing fingers at those benefiting from spreading misinformation. Confusingly, it’s followed by the breezily bright “Mulberry Street,” which pulls listeners into a bustling city street with its piano riff later joined by merry horns and harmonies. Even though Joseph shouts “Keep your bliss” here, it doesn’t take long for the album’s optimism to frustratingly trickle away. By mixing bursts of quarantine-inspired felicity with gloomier, hollow tracks, Twenty One Pilots bewilder instead of providing meaningful balance.
The duo messily color outside the lines on lonelier tracks, and though occasional insight shines through the gloom of “Choker” and “The Outside,” Joseph and Dun still struggle to navigate and enliven the disarray of Scaled And Icy. With the risky penultimate track “No Chances,” the album takes a drastic turn. It stirs up visions of flamethrowers and switchblades, questions ever-present surveillance and hauntingly chants “We come for you/ no chances.” The song, uncanny and unnerving, acts as a permanent marker that graffitis the album’s varicolored portrait.
“Redecorate,” the record’s final track, is Twenty One Pilots’ reflective attempt at redemption. While the song’s intensity is similar to “No Chances,” its severity here makes room for more refined storytelling. Joseph’s staccato rap constructs a vivid scene out of a single messy bedroom, transforming chaos into a meaningful allegory about life and loss.
The track would satisfy standing alone, but in the context of Scaled And Icy, it illustrates Twenty One Pilots’ conscious decision to backtrack: Rather than commit to the album’s initial promise of joy, the duo defaults to chilling melodrama to offer introspection — introspection that arrives too late.