BLAST FROM THE PAST #4: Linkin Park

A recent episode of South Park posited that there comes a time in your life when everything you once loved as a kid starts looking like crap once you’re older. While I will certainly admit to growing more critical and cynical as I’ve grown, I’d like to think people don’t change that much. Some things in life never get old – I’ll probably always have a soft spot for U2 and Green Day, for the Three Stooges and Looney Tunes cartoons (and South Park, for that matter), for Super Mario Bros. 3 and Final Fantasy VII. Then there are things that give you little to no sense of pride or nostalgia, things that make you look back and wonder, “Why the hell did I ever like that?” And for me, sometimes I look back to my teenage years and try to figure out why it took me so long to grow out of nu-metal, though I do give that particular phase credit for helping me get into heavier music.

I was never a hardcore fan of that whole late-‘90s, early-double-0s scene, but I did get my feet wet. I liked Korn’s singles back then, but never bought any of their albums. I could never really get into the Deftones (and still haven’t, even though I’ve heard lots of good things about them) or P.O.D. I flat-out didn’t like Disturbed at all (and still don’t). System Of A Down? They were okay, but I never really got into their stuff either. I didn’t hear anything by Slipknot for the first time until long after the nu-metal craze had hit its peak, though I’d seen plenty of their merchandise around school. There was a brief period where I actually considered getting that Crazy Town album with “Butterfly” on it – yes, I once thought the guys who horrifically mutilated “New Noise” by Refused were at least competent musicians. I was totally ready to buy Kid Rock as an “American Bad Ass” until I found out that he took that riff from an old Metallica song (for the record, I’m usually OK with sampling as long as you make interesting alterations or additions to the sample; leaving the sample as it is comes off as lazy, like all you did was make up new lyrics to someone else’s song). And who the hell were Primer 55 and Ill Niño? I certainly didn’t know.

Really, there were (and are) only a handful of albums in my collection that probably qualify as nu-metal at all: the first three Limp Bizkit albums, Infest by Papa Roach, The Lonely Position of Neutral by Trust Company, and of course the required soundtracks for any angsty teenager’s life from 2000 to 2004, Hybrid Theory and Meteora by Linkin Park.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started drifting away from the genre for good, but if I had to guess I’d say it would be some time during my freshman year of college. Which is interesting (though probably only to me), because this was right around the middle of Linkin Park’s four-year hiatus between 2003’s Meteora and 2007’s Minutes To Midnight. A lot of things changed for me during that time – I graduated high school, went to college out of state, started living on my own for the first time, went to more parties, spent more time with friends, and totally failed to act on every crush I ever had on any girls. (Okay, that last one hadn’t changed. Should I really be revisiting my old teenage angst music right now?)

I also, as I’ve mentioned before, started exploring the Internet and finding out about a lot of interesting music that I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. If you told 17-year-old Colin that by the time he graduated college his favorite band would be Radiohead and Minus The Bear, the National, Mastodon, and Bloc Party would round out his top five, he’d laugh at you, say “Whatever, Radiohead’s overrated and I don’t even know who those other guys are,” and go back to listening to Linkin Park.

You know what else changed a lot during that period? Linkin Park. At some point during that hiatus they apparently also decided that maybe the whole rap-metal thing wasn’t so cool after all. By the time Minutes To Midnight came out they’d morphed from one chart-topping beast into another. I still remember hearing “What I’ve Done” for the first time and being a bit surprised at their sudden new direction. There was no trace of their old hip-hop and electronic influences to be found at all. Their nu-metal distortion was gone too, as was the call-and-response between singer Chester Bennington and rapper Mike Shinoda that had been a staple of their early work. And what’s this? A guitar solo? A guitar solo in a Linkin Park song? It made me wonder if I’d fallen into the Twilight Zone. Not that I was all that upset by it since I hadn’t listened to them in a long time. Nor was I all that impressed by it either, because “What I’ve Done” is just a generic arena rock song with an incredibly basic guitar solo and (I must give proper credit to Entertainment Weekly for this one) a piano part that sounds kind of like the theme from Halloween.

 

This edition of BLAST FROM THE PAST is going to be a little different from previous (and future) entries in the series. Normally I take a look at one album I own by an artist I don’t listen to anymore and then briefly summarize what that artist went on to accomplish later in their career. This time I’ll be revisiting two albums by the same artist that I played to death as a teenager and then giving a more in-depth investigation than usual into the artist’s future output. This is because while other bands I’ve covered in this feature have typically stuck to the same sound, today’s featured artist has completely reinvented their music – not once, but twice. Linkin Park, come on down – you’re the next contestant on BLAST FROM THE PAST.

THE ARTIST REVISITED

We begin, of course, with Linkin Park 1.0 – the rap-metal superstars who came charging out of the gate with the hugely popular Hybrid Theory, an album that has sold over ten million copies in the United States alone. And they followed that up with the also-hugely-popular Meteora, which sounds less like the title of a rap-metal album and more like the spell Sephiroth casts in hopes of destroying the world toward the end of Final Fantasy VII.

A typical Linkin Park song from this era begins with a short and soft intro, then erupts with loud power chords that make up the main riff, and then softens up again for verses filled with angst-ridden lyrics. From there the song sometimes builds up with a pre-chorus featuring some call-and-response between Bennington and Shinoda. Then we get the chorus, which is always sung (well, except “Papercut”) and sometimes features more back-and-forth between the two vocalists. The band lathers, rinses, and repeats for the second verse and chorus. The bridge is always the heaviest and angriest part of the song (come to think of it, “Papercut” doesn’t do that either), usually with lots of screams. Sometimes it can be effective (“SHUT UP WHEN I’M TALKING TO YOU”; “YOU’RE GONNA LISTEN TO ME LIKE IT OR NOT!”), and sometimes… well, it just doesn’t work at all (“I’m gonna run away… and never say good-BYE!”). Then we hear the chorus one more time and either the song abruptly ends right there or we hear a short and soft outro to ease us out of the song.

The typical Linkin Park song from Hybrid Theory or Meteora is always over within three and a half minutes. Not one guitar solo is ever played. Nor are there any acoustic instruments to be found, not even just to mix things up a bit. No profanities are ever uttered either, making these guys the anti-Fred Durst, who drops F-bombs the way a teenage girl says “like.” There is little to no deviation from the formula I just outlined in any song on Linkin Park’s first two albums except the instrumentals.

It doesn’t help matters that the guitar work on these two albums is… um… well, let’s just say Brad Delson, also known as “that guy with the headphones,” isn’t exactly an Eddie Van Halen-esque virtuoso. For every listenable riff on Hybrid Theory and Meteora, there’s another that’s completely dull and uninspired. Let’s use an example, shall we? The first two tracks on Hybrid Theory are “Papercut” and “One Step Closer,” two decent songs that were released as singles and feature some of the more memorable guitar riffs on the record. Then along comes “With You” at track 3. “With You” has a terrible two-chord chugfest of a main riff that’s so hookless I can’t believe Bennington was able to write an actual melody to sing over it. Then we get to the chorus and Delson introduces us to one of his favorite tricks of the LP 1.0 era: the chorus riff where literally all he does is let power chords ring. In other words, basic chord progressions played with the easiest chords to play on the guitar and uncomplicated strumming patterns. He probably doesn’t do this as much as I think he does, but it just feels like he does it a lot.

To his credit, this doesn’t happen nearly as often on Meteora. But we’re talking about a guitarist who often has little to nothing to do during the verses and doesn’t come up with very creative parts when he does get to play. The riff in “By Myself” is another two-chord chugfest, and this time it sounds like Delson recorded a full guitar part and then the band took a snippet of that part and built the song around it. “Hit The Floor” uses the same guitar parts in the verse and chorus – and come to think of it, “A Place For My Head” does that too. “Numb” relies far too much on that “sustained power chords” trick; Delson’s parts in that song consist entirely of whole notes and half notes and nothing else.

But the absolute lowest point actually came when I was 16 years old and I listened to “From The Inside” for the first time and realized that it had the exact same damned riff as “Faint,” the song that made me want Meteora in the first place, the song that arrives three tracks earlier in the album’s running order! How is that even possible? How do you write two songs with the same riff during the same recording sessions and put them on the same album – again, just three tracks apart (“Faint” is #7, “From The Inside” is #10) – without anybody noticing that they sound exactly the same?

 

Hell, these two songs were both released as singles! And I’ve never even seen a review of Meteora that mentions what I consider a blatantly obvious similarity. The only differences are that “From The Inside” is slower and removes that last chord from the “Faint” riff. Other than that, it’s the same freaking thing. Back then it drove me nuts to the point where I actually made my friend Kevin listen to these two songs just to see if he’d notice. The exchange went something like this:

COLIN: Hey, I got a couple songs I want you to listen to.

KEVIN: Uh, okay.

COLIN: All right, here’s the first one.

(I put on “Faint”)

KEVIN: Oh, I know this one! I’ve heard this on the radio. I actually kind of like this song.

COLIN: Cool, cool. Well, since you already know this one, I’ll just put the second one on now.

(I put on “From The Inside”)

COLIN: Now, tell me if you notice anything about these songs.

(Kevin listens to “From The Inside” for less than thirty seconds before giving his answer.)

KEVIN: You mean aside from the fact that they sound exactly the same?

It was nice to know that, while I may be crazy, I wasn’t completely out of my mind.

So now let’s move on to the lyrics. And oddly enough, as much as I’ve complained about the uninspired guitar work so far, this was actually the biggest reason I started moving away from Linkin Park. It’s not that these guys are awful lyricists (they’re like the second coming of Bob Dylan compared to the Limp Bizkits and Crazy Towns of the world); it’s that I never really understood what their songs were about. Yeah, it’s pretty clear that these guys are upset about something. The question I started asking was, “What is that something?” I mean, there are songs on both albums that mention “wounds that will not heal,” but what are these wounds, where did they come from, and why won’t they heal? And the more I paid attention to the band’s lyrics, the less I thought I would ever really find an answer.

I once told my sister that Linkin Park songs are about everything and nothing all at once. It seems like they’re trying to write lyrics that anyone in any situation can relate to, which is probably why you see so many Linkin Park songs in YouTube AMVs paying tribute to pretty much any TV show, movie, anime, video game, or anything else you can imagine. They write about how they feel but never even try to explain what is making them feel that way. On one hand, this means their songs could be about anything, which in theory would make them easier for people to connect with. On the other hand, as someone who believes in music as a means of reaching out to other people and making such connections, it actually makes me feel less of a connection with Linkin Park. I feel like these songs could have been written by anyone about anything.

Like, one of the reasons I think Weezer’s Pinkerton is a great album is because the things Rivers Cuomo wrote those songs about actually happened to him and he seems pretty honest about the details of those situations. So while I’ve never fallen in love with a lesbian or been shot down by a girl I invited to a Green Day concert or developed a fetish for Japanese stationery, I still feel a stronger connection with Weezer’s songs than Linkin Park’s. I’ve always felt that at its heart Pinkerton is a record about an awkward guy who wants to be loved but has trouble finding it. And maybe it’s because I’m kind of like that myself, and I don’t want to accuse Linkin Park of being dishonest or un-genuine, but I feel there’s a level of… character study, I guess you could call it, that Pinkerton has but Hybrid Theory lacks. It’s all about the details you’re willing to share, I suppose.

So anyway, my continuing search for the possible source of all Linkin Park’s angst has led me to do a little research on the band members themselves and see what I can learn. See what kind of experiences they may have had that influenced their lyrics. See if anything about that kind of stuff can even be found at all, really. I’ll start with one of the faces and voices of the band, Mr. Chester Bennington. Let’s see what makes him tick. From MTV.com’s artist biography

A victim of sexual abuse, Bennington had a childhood that was far from picture perfect, and when his parents divorced at age 11, he turned to drugs to deal with his pain. By the time he was a teenager, Bennington had gotten heavily into cocaine and methamphetamines, supporting his drug habit with a gig working at Burger King.

Holy shit, dude.

I did not see that one coming.

So, um… I guess now I think I might have a better idea of where some of the angst comes from and why the lyrics on Hybrid Theory and Meteora are so vague about the source. I can’t imagine it’s easy to write songs about that kind of stuff. Especially not when your band has just been signed to a major label and you realize that if your album is a hit then millions of people you’ve never met could be learning all about your deep-rooted traumas and personal tragedies. But it’s only a guess, really. I don’t know how much of Linkin Park’s songwriting is influenced by these things, and frankly it’s probably not my place to even speculate. For all I know their lyrics could either be totally unrelated or a perfect way to release the pain caused by such events, at least from the band’s perspective.

Moving on from all that… I’ve been pretty hard on these albums, but I still don’t think they’re bad. They’re okay; the band clearly has an ear for hooks and occasionally comes up with some interesting ideas. The instrumentals “Cure For The Itch” and “Session” are standout tracks on their respective albums, both in their own right as short-but-sweet electronic experiments and as the only break from the band’s typical (at the time) rap-metal fare. The singles from Hybrid Theory are still pretty listenable (albeit massively overplayed), and “Points Of Authority” and “Forgotten” rank at the top of the non-single cuts. The second half of Meteora is home to three of Linkin Park’s best songs – “Faint,” which makes good use of a string sample and was perhaps the most energetic LP song until “The Catalyst”; “Nobody’s Listening,” which is built around a Japanese pan flute loop, DJ scratches, and muted guitars; and especially “Breaking The Habit,” which is perhaps the best song LP 1.0 ever delivered. If they didn’t stick so rigidly to their songwriting formula and gave themselves more space to flesh out some of their ideas, could they have delivered some topnotch material?

WHAT CAME NEXT?

I wasn’t originally planning to lump Linkin Park’s first two albums together, but they sound so similar to each other that it’s pretty hard not to. A lot of the tricks the band uses on Hybrid Theory are pulled out of the bag again for Meteora, right down to the Mr. Hahn instrumental in the second-to-last track. It was a wise commercial decision, but it also made the band look like a one-trick pony. Everything they’ve done since has been in response to the criticism of Meteora as “Hybrid Theory Pt. 2,” as Minutes To Midnight and A Thousand Suns are pretty obvious attempts to make anything but “Hybrid Theory Pt. 3.”

Minutes To Midnight, which was released after a four-year break from making records, saw the introduction of Linkin Park 2.0: the arena rockers. They toned down the distortion a lot – I’d say Minutes To Midnight is easily their softest album – and started bringing in more influence from U2, to the point where “Shadow Of The Day” sounds eerily similar to “With Or Without You” and Chester Bennington started going around rocking Bono sunglasses. And imagine my surprise when I listened to the opening instrumental “Wake” and heard soft electronics and a bass line that didn’t just go along with what the guitars were doing. Too bad that song ends just when it’s starting to come alive.

 

While the Linkin Park of Hybrid Theory and Meteora sought to make loud and angry rap-metal, LP 2.0 also tones down the rage and the rap influence. Minutes To Midnight still has a couple of old-school “angry LP” songs, most notably “Given Up” with its breakdown of “PUT ME OUT OF MY MISERY” and Bennington’s climactic 17-second scream. But when I say “a couple,” I mean a couple – the only other song that still has their old heavy sound is “No More Sorrow.” Oh, and the rap stuff has been almost completely shoved to the sidelines – Mike Shinoda handles lead vocals on just three of the twelve tracks here, and only two of them (“Bleed It Out” and “Hands Held High”) are rap songs. He was once Bennington’s co-star, and on this album it’s like he’s been reduced to character-actor status.

Though his rap role is practically an afterthought in LP 2.0, Shinoda does find other stuff to do. He handles the piano parts, introduces us to his singing voice, and chips in as a second guitarist, presumably freeing up Brad Delson, now known as “that guy with the headphones and the afro,” to branch out into a lead guitar role. And so it was that Delson was able to play not one, not two, but three guitar solos on Minutes To Midnight – a short one in “What I’ve Done,” some tapping exercises (!!!) during “In Pieces,” and one in “The Little Things Give You Away” which I’ll get to in a moment. His rhythm work is still pretty unremarkable, but at least he avoids putting the same riff in two songs this time (though the breakdown in “No More Sorrow” does remind me of the breakdown from “Given Up”). His part in “Leave Out All The Rest” consists entirely of him strumming the same note over and over like he’s Johnny Ramone playing the solo in “I Wanna Be Sedated.” Similarly, his verse riff in “No More Sorrow” uses only one chord and lots of chugging. That said, “In Between” features a decent harmonic hook and “Valentine’s Day” has a nice guitar melody that kind of reminded me of the Edge only without all the effects.

The highlight of Minutes To Midnight has to be its closing number “The Little Things Give You Away.” Even with Linkin Park going softer than usual and starting to branch out of their comfort zone on this album, I wasn’t expecting a song like this from them. It begins with acoustic guitars and soft electronic percussion that gradually builds into a soaring ballad with a firmly established and well-executed melancholy. The second half of this song is a thing of surprising beauty. Delson’s guitar solo is simple in technique but fits the mood perfectly, and the closing vocal harmonies with Bennington’s mournful wails and Shinoda and bassist Dave “Phoenix” Farrell each adding their own distinct parts works really well. If only the lyrics were up to par – this song is very obviously about Hurricane Katrina, and while I commend Linkin Park for writing about something specific for a change there are a few lines that rub me the wrong way. Especially the chorus: “All you’ve ever wanted was someone to truly look up to you/And six feet underwater, I DO.” Do you get it? HE’S DEAD. And he died because George Bush didn’t care about New Orleans… or because FEMA screwed up, or because the Louisiana state government screwed up, or something. I get what they’re trying to do, but lines like that just strike me as melodramatic.

There are actually several places here where Linkin Park’s lyrics have some clarity to show you what they mean, to borrow a phrase from “Breaking The Habit.” “In Pieces” is a breakup song; “Shadow Of The Day” is about how either the protagonist wants to run away (and never say good-BYE!!!!!!!!) or kill himself (why he feels this way remains, as usual, a mystery); “Bleed It Out,” despite the title hinting at self-mutilation, is actually about struggling with writer’s block and perfectionism (“I won’t lie/Doesn’t matter how hard I try/Half the words don’t mean a thing/And I know that I won’t be satisfied”); “Valentine’s Day” is a reaction to the death of a loved one; and “The Little Things Give You Away” and “Hands Held High” are pretty direct screw-yous to George W. Bush. Even “No More Sorrow” seems to be attacking Bush and the war on terror (“Your crusade’s a disguise/Replace freedom with fear/You trade money for lives/…/Your time has come to be replaced/…/I see liars and thieves/Abuse power with greed”).

Of course, Minutes To Midnight came out in 2007, toward the end of Bush’s tenure and about three years after the anti-Bush musical movement really hit its mainstream peak with Green Day’s American Idiot and the Vote for Change Tour. And it featured a song about Hurricane Katrina two years after the storm hit New Orleans. It would be easy to say their timing was off by a few years, but hell, Rise Against just released a video about Katrina about five months ago and I haven’t heard anyone complain about that. If nothing else, it did help Linkin Park start writing more focused lyrics, though their trademark vagueness was still present in songs like “What I’ve Done,” which for me at least only raised the question of “What did you do?” So while the band took a dramatically different musical approach on their next album, that increase in focus provided them with a stepping stone toward the concept album that A Thousand Suns turned out to be. Whether or not this was a good thing is of course up for debate.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Minutes To Midnight was named in reference to the Doomsday Clock, a symbol created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago to estimate how close the world is to a global disaster. The minute hand moves closer to midnight whenever any country develops nuclear weaponry and farther away whenever countries sign treaties or make agreements to reduce their arsenals (note: today scientists also favor accounting for global climate change in these estimations). The closest the Doomsday Clock ever actually came to midnight was within two minutes back in 1953, when the United States and the Soviet Union both tested thermonuclear devices. It was at its farthest – 17 minutes to midnight – in 1991 around the end of the Cold War. The clock is currently set at six minutes to midnight.

In 2010, Linkin Park announced that their follow-up to Minutes To Midnight was to be called A Thousand Suns. The title was taken from a line in Hindu scripture that had been quoted by J. Robert Oppenheimer in reference to the atomic bomb. So when considering the source of the title, the mysterious blurry image on the cover that almost looks like a mushroom cloud when viewed from a certain angle, and track titles like “Burning In The Skies,” “Waiting For The End,” “Fallout,” and “The Catalyst,” it would seem that the band had made a sequel to Minutes To Midnight, so to speak. It appeared that Linkin Park had dared to envision an answer to the long-dreaded question of what happens when the Doomsday Clock strikes midnight.

The theme of nuclear holocaust hovers over A Thousand Suns from the very beginning. The first two tracks, both of which are introductory interludes, start things off by asking God if we will “burn inside the fires of a thousand suns” and playing a clip of Oppenheimer quoting another passage from Hindu scripture: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” This is some pretty heavy subject matter for anyone to be tackling, let alone a band that had spent the last few years soundtracking Michael Bay’s Transformers films. And all the while we hear this eerie pseudo-industrial background music that keeps building up and getting progressively harsher and noisier, creating a sense of dread for what’s to come. We seem to be in for some seriously bleak stuff here, people.

And then we get to “Burning In The Skies,” the first proper track, and all that stuff goes straight out the damn window.

You know how every disaster movie always has that “human interest” subplot about the main character being separated from his/her loved ones in the middle of the apocalyptic event du jour? “Burning In The Skies” is kind of like that, at least in terms of its lyrics. They seem to evoke images of someone trying to survive in a decimated world as a backdrop while the theme of alienation comes across more prominently. It’s not a bad song at all, but after those first two tracks I was expecting something much more hard-hitting from a song called “Burning In The Skies” than this. It sounds more like it would have fit on Minutes To Midnight.

Perhaps I went into this album with the wrong expectations. See, “Burning In The Skies” is the last song until (depending on your interpretation) “Iridescent” comes along nine tracks later to even attempt to address the whole “end of the world” theme. “Robot Boy,” despite its title practically screaming “MAKE ME THE NEXT TRANSFORMERS THEME, MR. BAY,” is more about allowing yourself to embrace your emotions and accept love… or something like that. “Blackout” feels more like if the old-school “angry” Linkin Park showed up for the lyric-writing session. “Wretches And Kings” could be looked at as an attempt at a “rebel anthem,” like it could be John Connor’s pump-up music before he goes off to battle the Terminators, but then I hear Chester Bennington sing the chorus in what sounds like a fake Jamaican accent and I laugh.

And even the song called “Waiting For The End” sounds at times like the band’s usual brand of vague angst or sadness. When I read a line like, “All I want to do is trade this life for something new,” I understand how it could be interpreted as being about someone who’s ready to die and looks forward to what the afterlife will bring. But when I hear Bennington sing that line, all I can think is, “Okay, Chester. I’ll take you up on that offer. I’ll be the lead singer of one of the most popular bands on Earth and get my songs played on the radio and MTV all the time and sell millions of records. And you can be the depressed college grad who can’t find a job, can’t get a date, and has lost touch with all of his friends.” Also, whenever I hear that opening drum beat all I can think is, “If you havin’ girl problems I feel bad for you, son! I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one!”

On an album that seemed to present itself as a concept album about nuclear holocaust, it turns out that the most powerful statement Linkin Park delivers has absolutely nothing to do with that concept. That statement arrives on “When They Come For Me,” which is a crystal-clear middle finger to every fan (or ex-fan) who complained about the band ditching rap-metal. Mike Shinoda would like you all to know that he’s not “the same person telling you to forfeit the game” (a reference to the Hybrid Theory fan favorite “Points Of Authority”), and if you don’t like that you can either listen to something else or “try and catch up, motherfucker!”

“When They Come For Me” finds Shinoda – and in fact Linkin Park as a whole – in rare form. This is a Linkin Park song that sounds genuinely pissed off, and for once you can understand exactly where they’re coming from. The band’s decision to change their sound proved to be quite divisive among their fan base. It’s the eternal dilemma for musicians – do you keep pushing yourselves and trying new things while risking the alienation of your fans, or do you play it safe and stick with your tried-and-true sound to keep your fans happy? Well, not only did Linkin Park choose the former, but they then changed their sound again and made the most challenging record of their career. There’s less guitar here than ever before, but plenty of noisy industrial electronics to go around. Oh, and lots of pianos too. And you hear Shinoda sing almost as much as Bennington does. And it ends with an acoustic ballad called “The Messenger” that would actually be a pleasant little tune if Bennington didn’t oversing it so badly. Most of A Thousand Suns doesn’t sound like anything Linkin Park has ever done before. The only clue that anything like this was coming was probably the 15-second industrial breakdown about two-thirds of the way through “New Divide,” a song that otherwise sounds like a “What I’ve Done” rewrite with new lyrics and vocal hooks.

After listening to A Thousand Suns I think I now understand why “The Catalyst” was chosen as its lead single. It may not have the catchiest hooks, but it sums up the album and Linkin Park 3.0 in one tidy little six-minute package. It’s half electronic experiment, half soaring stadium rocker with pianos. The first half is probably the most chaotic and energetic thing they’ve ever put on a record; the second half is arguably the most grandiose. And of course it also sticks the closest to that apocalyptic theme that I thought this album was going to have. This is the song the rest of A Thousand Suns has been building up to, even that interlude track where the lyrics are Japanese phrases meaning “lift me up, let me go.” If “Iridescent” marks the point where the bombs start going off (which I think it does in the context of the album, especially in the verse lyrics), then “The Catalyst” seems to be what happens after everything’s been destroyed. Or perhaps it’s a vision of the future since “The Messenger” shows up immediately afterward to end the album by basically saying, “You know, we can stop that from happening if we just start treating each other better.”

So in the end, what do I think of Linkin Park? I think they’re a textbook definition of a hit-or-miss band. I think they hit about as often as they miss. They have an ear for hooks and come up with some intriguing ideas, but they also have a lot of forgettable songs and sometimes don’t flesh their ideas out as much as they could be. And I have absolutely no problem with these guys playing around with new sounds. It’s not easy to try new things and it’s even harder to do it well, especially when you’ve made two hugely popular albums with an established sound. Their experiments don’t always work, but I give them credit for not resting on their laurels and churning out Hybrid Theory sequels every couple of years. They’re an odd case where I don’t feel compelled to get any more albums, yet still find myself at least a little bit interested in what they’re up to.

Who knows? Maybe there’s still something left of 17-year-old Colin lurking somewhere inside me after all. He’s gotten much quieter over the years, but he probably won’t completely disappear for a long time… and that’s assuming that he ever will.

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3 responses

  1. Judy

    On the cover of the Rolling Stone is where you should be and this article should be inside !!

    Great article! Not everyone pays attention to all the tracks, just the hits. Sometimes it’s the ones that don’t make it that are trully the artist best cuts!

    Great Job Colin!

    August 20, 2011 at 8:57 am

  2. Brad

    I feel you on like…99.9% of this whole thing, it is daring to change up the style and try something new. The only beef I have with that is, though they did gain a huge new fanbase with MTM and ATS, they did really say “screw you” to the older fans who, when worst came to worst, stuck with them and made them what they are today. I mean, I get what they’re trying to do and I appreciate it but it seems that they almost come off as ungrateful for the support they received from Hybrid Theory and Meteora. In fact it is exactly as you said, during “When they come for me”, It was a pretty big “Eff you very much” which to me, kinda sorta proves the old saying that money changes people. At this point the style changed into something new, but they are keeping it new for the sake of keeping the dollars rolling in at unprecedented rates.
    I’ll still love the old stuff, really Hybrid Theory is my bread and butter and, just like you, I have adapted to new and heavier horizons (Dead and Divine is amazing, check them out if you get a chance) but for some reason I will always come back to Linkin Park like a bad habit. Or a good one, depending on my mood.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:39 am

  3. Kenedy

    Dude you on ultimate guitar forum or something,cos you sound like a whiny teenage bitching about their fav band to look cool cos people told that they are shit. Who care about chord and time signature,its music and how it make you feel. According to you metal must be the best music cos they use complex rhythm and weird time signature. Well most metal music fails cos they can’t get proper hook and catchy chorus. Anyway why to spread your hatred on the internet cos it ain’t cool anymore. You and linkin park suck big time. Also I have been trying to get into Radiohead for long time but no luck. Instead I go for oasis,the strokes etc. They make listenable rock and roll while Radiohead makes unlistenable music. Seriously who actually listens to them except for handful like you. Their album ain’t selling no more. Anything by Radiohead is acclaim by the critics,even Thom Yorke’s fart also.

    December 18, 2015 at 1:31 am

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