Fueled by Ramen are becoming a very impressive force in the world of pop-alternative music. From last year’s success of fun., plus their other diverse acts including Paramore, Gym Class Heroes and Panic! at the Disco makes them a rather large tour de force. Now it’s time for their newest act, Twenty One Pilots, to shine. However, their debut with FBR, entitled Vessel, is too much of a mixed bag to be thoroughly enjoyable.
Let’s start with the good: The first single “Holding On To You” is a decent bit of pop music, with a very catchy hook and a solid music video accompaniment. “House of Gold” incorperates the uke in a rather enjoyable way, a nice song to throw in a mixtape to someone. The track immediately following that, “Car Radio” is lyrically the best moment on Vessel, which tells of the lead singer feeling really messed up and alone now that someone stole his car radio. His flow reminds me of someone doing a very hip-hop inspired set of spoken word poetry, which escalates to some deafening yells. I didn’t think 21P would get serious at all on this album, but this song really proves me wrong (regardless of the heavy synths toward the end). It’s a song like that which shows the duo have a lot of potential moving forward.
I say “moving forward” because whatever potential they have is wasted with incredibly faulty production and mixing. Take the two tracks I mentioned before, “House of Gold” and “Car Radio.” Going from a light pop sound to the darkest song on the album doesn’t give it the contrast it might be going for, but shows a true lack of unity. Even the very first song, “Ode To Sleep” is a mess from start to finish. You could probably disect that song into two seperate tracks, one rap oriented and pop oriented – given that BOTH have different production choices attached to it. This album’s inconsistent sounds (dance floor pop towards the end, normal pop in the middle, and lots of hip-hop in the beginning) makes this a hard listen.
What makes it an even harder listen is vocalist Tyler Joseph. His rapping is sub-par at best, and his singing ability isn’t going to warrant any sort of accolades. What the real kicker is here is his inflection. Just like Karmin last year, Joseph’s singing far surpasses his ability to rap, and how he raps is rather aggravating. What Karmin was to Nicki Minaj, Joseph is to a white guy trying his hardest to rap at karaoke. Take rapping away, and you’d find Joseph at I believe to be his most confident – however his screaming (ESPECIALLY towards the end of “The Run And Go) is something left to be desired.
This is not the way I want to start my new year. Vessel is an inconsistent mess that showed it’s not afraid to experiment. However, that experiment went horribly wrong somewhere down the line. I don’t doubt that Twenty One Pilots will be back – Fueled By Ramen usually know how to pick them. But hopefully in the time it takes to put out a new album, the duo can grow into themselves and find some genre of music to grab a hold of.
Final Grade: C-
Go Download: “Car Radio”