Review Summary: LP at their most experimental, but also most foolish.
Linkin Park (LP) is undoubtedly one of my most listened to bands and my guilty pleasure. Their older albums are simple nu-metal but genius. They reach a level of catchiness that few mainstream bands can attain on such a regular basis. But they took a break from that with “Minutes to Midnight” in 2007, and with their newest album “A Thousand Suns” on the horizon, it’s time to see where LP stands at this point in time. There are already a ton of reviews for this album, but this needs to be done anyways.
My first issue with the album starts right from the get-go. LP is notoriously bad at structuring their albums, and MtM is absolutely no exception. The structure literally makes no sense. When a band decides to substitute a full opening track for a simple short intro (which is common and acceptable), that song is usually used to perform two key functions: to introduce the new sound of the album and lead into what should be the first major song of the album through blending. There are many examples of bands doing this: Chevelle, Anberlin, Thousand Foot Krutch, etc. But here, “Wake” starts with an inspiring and wondrous melody of guitars that not only comes to a halt at the end but is stomped on and eaten alive by the very different-sounding “Given Up”. From there it only gets worse: one of their better tracks “Leave Out All the Rest” is crunched in between the latter single and the other cocky and obnoxious “Bleed it Out”, and the angry “No More Sorrow” precedes the touching “Valentine’s Day”. Better transition would have helped them a lot as the tracks end up cannibalizing instead of supporting each other.
You can also tell that LP has no direction right now, no consistency. They are trying too many different sounds here to please too many people. There are at least four different styles of music at work here. They are trying to add a pop influence into their line-up (Leave Out All the Rest, Valentine’s Day) which is IMO the route they should’ve stayed on as it is their strength here. But they are at the same time trying to please their earlier fans with harder songs like “No More Sorrow” and “Given Up” which not only fail miserably in that regard but have the obvious problem of sounding the same. The solos and breakdowns near the end of each song remind me of the other. While the more well-known songs (What I’ve Done, Shadow of the Day) are very emotional and a softer touch for this band, they suffer from being too generic and are very forgettable rock songs compared to other mainstream artists who deal in softer rock (Metric, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kings of Leon). Finally, they try to give Mike Shinoda his rapping spotlights here and there that are much less than what we are used too. When we do hear him on MtM though, he fails to elicit any type of response out of us. His solo “Hands Held High” feels weaker compared to rap artists who have done those sort of rebellious and inspiring songs better (ex. Puff Daddy: “I’ll Be Missing You”, The Roots, etc.). Four types: pop, hard rock, soft rock, rap/hip-hop......all weaker subsidiaries of better sounding bands.
But I couldn’t help myself and had to listen to this album over and over again for reasons that have more to do with my nostalgia for LP. I keep wanting this album to be stronger than it is. It’s still catchy like most of their earlier albums and I respect that they were trying to sound different from before. Believe me, they milked the nu-metal sound to its bare bones and I would have been more pissed if we got a Hybrid Theory Part III. The poppier stuff was the best part of this album and they chose to make more of those than anything. The closer “The Little Things You Give Away” is easily one of the strongest tracks of the album. It’s progressive and something LP has never tried before (a song over 5 minutes...dear god what has this world come too!). It starts gently with Chester’s voice matching perfectly as it moves along. As it gets louder and better, he gets more emotional, and creates a pop song that is the equivalent in intensity of anything they have made in the past even though it’s softer. It’s an adventure that sees LP perfectly in sync, and finishes off with Mike and Chester forming a medley of voices that is actually quite beautiful. It trumps anything on the album and is the reason why I believe they should continue with that particular kind of sound in the next album (even though I know they won’t listen to me). They are better at that than any other type of nu-metal restoration wannabe crap they tried here.
Overall, LP tried something new and like all musical leaps of faith, had some pros and cons. The lyrics are atrocious (“I bleed it out, digging deeper just to throw it away” – Bleed it Out, “Take this all the way! I’m suffocating! Tell me what the *** is wrong with me!” – Given Up, and all of Hands Held High). They didn’t give Mr. Hahn his signature experimental track and those were always one of my favourite highlights (Cure for the Itch, Session). But for a long time fan, they hit the right notes here on several occasions, mainly their poppier tracks that may not be a new sound in the music industry but are well made. “A Thousand Suns” is supposed to fix this problem of consistency and I really hope LP delivers on that promise and makes a better album, but we’re not dealing with talented artists here. From what I’ve heard (The Catalyst, Wretches & Kings) they still have too many different sounds and those are two VERY different songs, the latter with a hint of reggae? Good God! Fingers crossed people.
Leave Out All the Rest
No More Sorrow (like I said, weak hard rock song but still catchy and I’ll take it over “Given Up”)
The Little Things Give You Away