Review Summary: A look at Linkin Park's hybrid theory.
It is downright impossible to look at Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory
objectively. There’s an all-encompassing void surrounding the damn thing that saps your ability to accurately critique the music. I can’t say I’ve read someone deal ‘accurately’ within my personal assessment of the album, and I'm certain others feel the same. You can describe fusion of hip-hop beats and monotone guitar riffs until you’re blue in the face but *** off if you try to tell me that “A Place for My Head” doesn’t resonate far beyond a pissed-off-at-authority teenage tantrum. It’s not an album for in depth delving and cataloging it’s an album for nostalgia. Even to personal introspect would be woefully self-serving as I cannot match your long developed inclinations, good or bad, with my own. So now, 14 years after its release, I’m not going to fruitlessly try and sit here and explain what makes this album a forever favorite.
Even after all of that, Linkin Park is still a band that everyone has an opinion on. The piano lick that dominates “In the End” is engrained in the 20-something psyche as a thing that happened
, not just was played in a song. Some are resentful for it, of course, as many are resentful of the current bands headlining as “famous rock artists” without the songwriting prowess or technical ability of their, lesser known, favorite. Some are grateful for it, as without the existence of the screamed bridge of “One Step Closer” harsh vocals may have never been recognized as a musical tool that could be just as beautiful as a sung note. But none are ignorant of it, because the album itself is too strongly engrained on the culture surrounding rock music to be disregarded. Linkin Park is, for a great many of us, our gateway band.
The consequence of this is especially evident when looking at the work they’ve released since then, or more specifically, since they decided to try to shed the preconceived notions of what Linkin Park is. Dismissing any talk of the oft-beaten dead horse Minutes to Midnight
, it’s better to look at their two most recent efforts to discern what really went awry for the band between Linkin Park between Hybrid Theory
and today. And by awry, I mean what hasn’t changed at all. A Thousand Suns was littered with so much frills and bells and dangling excess that it became hard to notice, but when you strip and down and listen closely, Linkin Park was making exactly the same music they were on Hybrid Theory
. Its lyrics were angsty, its electronics were simplistic, its beats were hip-hop-y, its guitar work was pedestrian. Most of all, its songwriting was literally identical in strength.
I guess you could say the point I’m trying to make with this rant is that Linkin Park’s songwriting and talent hasn’t fallen at all since Hybrid Theory
. Living Things
is a shining example of that, as they completely shed the pretentiousness of its predecessor and marry it, quite well, to the style that made them famous. Take “Lost in the Echo” whose rapped verse/sung chorus could be easily called a “Papercut” clone yet for some reason even the most diehard of fans can’t accept is as more than a cheap attempt at recalling their past. Both songs have the same structure, the same pulsating guitar, the same soaring chorus and aggressive verses, yet one is a classic and the other is ***.
It’s hard to say what best explains this separation, beyond the nostalgia, but I’d hazard that it actually has a lot to do with tone. Old Linkin Park went hard and fast and new Linkin Park goes steady and quiet. Maybe that pacing and volume makes the songwriting flaws, that certainly exist here as well, much more obvious? Sure “Castle of Glass” has an overlong, simplistic chorus that doesn’t really hook, but so does “With You”. On which do you notice it more? Linkin Park has never been, and will never be, a band of inspired and unique songwriters. They have never been as talented as the acclaim this receives would suggest.
When it comes down to it, though, we love this album because we are victims to the past. Linkin Park will indefinitely be the band that made “Crawling” and “In the End” and they will never be able to move past those stigmas and come out on top. Try as we might to stay clear of the comparisons, it’s always there in the back of our heads defacing anything they present us as “not as good as Hybrid Theory
”. By giving us this album, the band has doomed themselves to never be able to outdo it within their current talent pool. And that’s ok. I feel that those of us who enjoy their new work have found a way to cope with the fact that nothing will bring us back to belting our plans to runaway or shouting our distress at being by ourselves. And once we’ve done that we can accept new Linkin Park for what it is, a more ‘mature’ slant on the signature that Linkin Park created on Hybrid Theory