Review Summary: Just another face in the crowd.
What’s the worst type of album anyone can listen to? I can tell you right off the bat, it’s not always a terrible one; a bad album can be just as entertaining as a great one. There’s merit to the statement as well, just look at any long-time band and you’ll notice people talk more about the great ones or the misfires. No, the worst crime any album can commit is being bland: the type of record that isn’t good enough to be memorable, but isn’t bad enough for people to talk about in the years to come. Welcome to Linkin Park’s third studio album, a record that represents a band desperately trying to shun their roots by utilizing a trove of derivative ideas and plagiarisms. It’s common knowledge at this point that Linkin Park like to shake things up, for better or worse, but this was the starting ground for what would be the novelty Linkin Park we know today. A Linkin Park that spends more time trying to convince its listeners on how diverse and open-minded they are as artists than write genuine music.
After the release of Meteora
in 2003 the band dropped out of the limelight, taking a 4-year break, while Mike went off to make his debut rap album as Fort Minor, and the rest of the band took a break. So, when it finally became time to make a new record, they wanted a massive shake up, something to get them out of the pigeonhole they found themselves in; hiring Rick Rubin as their producer and setting out to change their image. Sadly, the result is a collection of bland radio-rock tunes that range from insipid to average. The epic intro building on “Wake” sets out to bring a promising crescendo builder before shifting into the album’s first proper track “Given Up”, which is a pretty decent track that contains a dirty, driving bass-line for its verse, before slipping into a catchy powerhouse chorus, effectively executed by Chester’s great vocal performance, and then rounding off with an impressive elongated scream. And if I’m honest, if we’re judging the album on its first two tracks, it actually sets off to a pretty high standard, successfully moving the band into a fresh and interesting sound. Hell, even the ballad “Leave Out All the Rest”, while nothing particularly earth-shattering, brings a catchiness that adequately delivers a pinning interest – offering enough hallmarks from the band to make it familiar, yet progressive. “What I’ve Done” is another track that gets it right and offers little let up with its simple song structure and infectious melodies.
It’s here on out where things get very hairy though. There’s a distinct lack of identity, with a terrible clash of ideas: “Shadow of a Day” is a U2 rip-off through-and-through, that not only offers little instrumentally, but Chester’s vocal performance holds nothing in helping the track out; the laughably bad “No More Sorrow”, which attempts to pander to its older fanbase does more damage than good; and the likes of “Hands Held High” takes the award for being both extremely dull musically, and vocally mundane as Mike ham-fistedly drone raps through the track with his horribly cliched lyrics. And while we’re on the subject of lyrical content, it feels loosely political, but is executed in a really corny and embarrassing way – the latter two tracks mentioned for being the biggest offenders. “Valentine’s Day” is quite possibly one of the worst Linkin Park songs in existence, showcasing a vomit-inducing whine underpinning Chester’s performance, which is supported by a terrible hook made on the piano. In fact, quite honestly, the album jumps off the cliff when it gets to the last quarter of the record, and it’s not even for being really bad, per se, it’s because by this point it doesn’t hold up as a Linkin Park record anymore. “Valentine’s Day” is the only truly dire track here, the rest of the songs are just really forgettable, generic pieces that hold a minimal amount of their own identity. Even though the projects that proceed Minutes to Midnight
vary in quality – and polarize different opinions – there’s no denying they all have a lot more character and conviction behind each of them; this just feels stale and uninspired.
SPECIAL EDITION: Numerous editions float around for this album, the CD/DVD book houses studio photos, a making-of and various antiquated digital features; while other versions of the CD contain bonus tracks “No Roads Left” and various live versions of older songs.