In case you’ve been hiding under a rock today (or you simply don’t have notifications on for every twenty one pilots related Twitter account that exists like I do), TØP and Mutemath have collaborated on the remastering of five of twenty one pilots’ most recent songs in a live studio session in Tennessee. No one knew it was coming, it just dropped on our news feeds like a very welcome candy floss bomb. But less sweet. And more talented. Or something.
If you don’t want to hear me ramble on for what will probably be far too long about how sick these new versions are, simply watch the video, download the songs (for free until Jan 13th!), and draw your own conclusions, forever bearing in mind that everything this band does, they do it for us.
First of all, I’d like to thank everyone involved in this TOPxMM project for not choosing to remaster Stressed Out. As much as I will love that song until the end of eternity, I think we’ve probably heard enough of it for 2016. I’m stoked with the choices, and these new versions of Heathens, Heavydirtysoul, Ride, Tear In My Heart, and Lane Boy, are undeniably as close to perfect as they could have been. Five tracks of pure, otherworldly goodness.
I think it’s important to note how many more instruments are involved in the making of these tracks compared to how the originals are played live on stage. Mutemath add a guitar, another set of drums, a combined effort of keyboard and piano, and the regular use of a bass (as opposed to Tyler playing it for just a couple of songs throughout the set). The acknowledgement of this allows for a true appreciation of what Josh Dun and Tyler Joseph manage to achieve as a duo, as while these new versions are certainly amazing, I wouldn’t say they necessarily add anything that the original versions don’t have. The abundance of band members also brings to light the fact that a huge amount of work goes on behind what you get to see on stage. The extra instruments make up what the backing tracks create in the show – something that becomes quite clear during Lane Boy when you realise that what usually comes through the backing track is being played on guitar. Seeing the organised chaos that is the Tennessee recording studio, you’re met with an appreciation of the time and effort that must go into creating the full sound that we hear on stage.
I don’t claim to really know anything about the creation of music – the active participation in creating music was never really my forté – so I can only really go off what I can see and hear. Overall, Mutemath added a certain softness to what are otherwise quite harsh sounding songs. The beginning of Heathens takes an eerie turn, with the now slow, soft vocals being almost entirely isolated. As the track goes on, it never really picks up in the same way that the original does, missing that characterising gun loading sound that I love, oh so much. It loses the anger and fear, and supplies a tone that suggests pleading that only intensifies in the final 20 seconds. This sounds like it might have damaged the song, but in fact, I think it simply conveys the lyrics in a new light. While I certainly don’t think it’s better than the original, I do believe that it has just as much going for it.
The start of Heavydirtysoul is powerful enough as it is, with it leading on directly from the original 2012 version of Goner, but this updated version makes you feel like you’ve been thrown straight into the eye of a hurricane. Other than that, this is probably the remaster that sounds most like the Blurryface version, with subtle changes that you might not be too quick to notice should you not know the original inside out. Throughout, there are extra sound effects creating by fancy keyboards and sound pads, and Tyler’s rapping is less refined than it is on record, with echo effects added in the following chorus on “save“. It definitely feels more like their live performance of the track, giving it an authentic and emotional vibe that’s missing in the original Blurryface version. This is exacerbated in the last chorus, as Tyler screams, “Can you save, can you save, can you save my…“, probably my favourite part of any of the five songs. It’s desperation and it’s beautiful and vulnerable. Everything I adore about this band.
I never thought I would be able to picture Ride being played in a club, but that is exactly what has happened now that Mutemath have had their take on it. As a rule, I hate clubs and I hate club music, but this would draw me in to any overcrowded sweaty, alcohol riddled pit. I imagine the people in this room, probably at some European holiday resort, with their heads thrown back, arms in the air and swaying, right up until the drop when individuals merge and become one as they jump up and down. Without changing the song into something else entirely, it couldn’t be more different to the original. Ride doesn’t even have a drop. It’s so not twenty one pilots and it was not at all what I expected, and that is exactly why I adore it.
Tear In My Heart fills me with glee, and I highly recommend watching the TOPxMM video clip very carefully at this point, since Tyler’s dancing accompanied by his straight face is enough to make anyone giggle, no matter how bad your day is going thus far. It’s a throwback to an era that only our parents will remember, and I can understand Tyler’s inability to stand still as we’re brought into the first verse with tunes that can only be described as “funky”. Tear In My Heart is already the happiest sounding song on Blurryface and yet somehow, Mutemath (along with Joshua Dun and his trumpet) have managed to add even more sunshine to a song that lights up the world. I can only suspect that this is because Tyler’s love for wife Jenna – the subject of the song – is growing with every day or something grossly romantic like that. The bass line makes me infinitely happy and if it was possible to bathe in a song, then I think maybe I would.
The final remastered track is Lane Boy, and is directly comparable with the live version of the track that I have personally witnessed at least 6 times at this point. And yet, somehow, they still manage to bring something new. As I previously mentioned, sounds that would otherwise be created by Tyler on a computer, are made by Mutemath and their instruments – most notably the guitar creating the defining opening notes to the track, bringing something slightly new to the table. As in most of these tracks, the use of keyboard effects are perfectly implemented, giving it a more modern, electronic edge than what we are used to. The infamous Lane Boy breakdown is monumental and everything I have ever wanted in the world, and it only continues on after the original version would have ended. At this point in the 25 minute video, Tyler makes a point of sitting down, and lets the music really take over. I don’t know how to describe what happens next, other than maybe to call it futuristic and liken it to EDM. Usually, I’d stay well clear, and yet somehow it fits in so well with the vibe the track creates up until that point, and it may have been the only way to make an already epic song, even more epic.