I had the opportunity to listen to Vessel by Twenty One Pilots this week. I also had the opportunity to visit Siberian Russia with a two-day stopover in the Gaza Strip, which I regrettably turned down in favor of listening to Vessel by Twenty One Pilots. Has anyone out there heard of Twenty One Pilots? There is surprisingly little information available on the internet about them. As of this writing, they don’t even have a Wikipedia page. I’ve gathered this much: They are Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun, a slightly-older-than-college-aged duo from Columbus, Ohio, who just released their debut LP with Fueled by Ramen records.
If after reading that previous sentence you are in any way intrigued, then I have good news: You will probably like this band. I, however, just turned 27, which is approximately 15 years too old to appreciate their music. Considering the fact that when I was 12 years old, I thought the pinnacle of music was Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray, I gotta believe that there’s an audience for these guys. But if you’re of legal drinking age and have relatively sound decision-making capabilities, you really have no business listening to them.
I’m perhaps being overly harsh in an effort to get my point across. They seem like a “fun” couple of guys and (probably) by default play “fun” music. They are passionate about their music and you can clearly tell by listening to any of their songs that they enjoy what they do. But my biggest problem is that I don’t know exactly what it is they do. According to the Fueled by Ramen blog, their music is a “distinctive fusion of piano-driven indie-rocktronica and lyrical uplift.” Props to their marketing people for coming up with that gem, because that sounds a little like Foster the People, and Foster the People they are certainly not. Do you know what Vessel sounds like? It sounds like Asher Roth and a bad version of The Killers got together and decided to write a Broadway musical.
The first 40 seconds of Vessel is pretty cool. The beat got me pretty pumped up. But then one of the guys starts rapping, and ladies and gentleman, we do not have another 2pac on our hands. He raps for a while, and then the song dramatically changes into something entirely different and the other guy (or the same guy, I’m not really sure and I don’t really care) starts singing. And then it changes back to rapping over an EDM beat. The song goes in approximately 12 different directions. Of the tempo, Mr. Joseph said in a recent Huffington Post interview, “I don’t really know what it is I was thinking; it was just that I’d like to hear a song like that.” Unfortunately, it’s not just that song that’s the problem. Inexplicable rapping abounds on Vessel: I don’t understand why it even exists at all. He’s not an awful rapper, but let me ask you this: would you sprinkle oregano on a hot dog? I suppose you could, but…why would you?
Again, it’s possible I’m being a bit rough on these guys. I don’t consider myself a better person for trashing a band in a review. Since I possess no musical capabilities I’m really intrigued by the process of writing and recording a song; it’s turning absolutely nothing into something. It’s still art. But when you release an album on Fueled by Ramen records you are opening the door for some criticism. The best thing I can say about this band is that I’m sure they’d play a fun, energetic live show. I’d buy a ticket to see them just out of curiosity. And if I walked into someone’s house and they were playing this album I wouldn’t ask them to turn it off. But the worst thing I can say about them is that I’d be embarrassed to recommend them to a friend.
I’ll still throw them a bone, however. “The Run and Go,” is a pretty damn catchy song, and “Guns for Hands,” is not an affront to my ear canal. But with so much great music out there it’s hard to envision a scenario in which I’d play this album ever again.