Review Summary: Graffiti decorations underneath a sky of dust.Hybrid Theory - 24/10/00
A Place in My Head
I came from an upbringing where music held little significance in my life, there was no gravitational pull towards listening to it and I found more enjoyment from things elsewhere. Then Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory
came onto the scene. I listened to that record on a holiday, repeatedly spinning it on my Philips Walkman, and with every spin came a change in my worldview on what music could truly offer me. Even if I said Linkin Park’s barnstorming debut album held an unprecedented importance and a cultural significance that is still felt to this day – as well as being, probably, the most important record to have entered my life – I would still feel as though I was underselling it. This was the
album in 2000; the gateway album for millions of angsty kids looking to channel their insecurities with an idiosyncratic blend of heavy metal, rap and electronics, all expertly crafted with a meticulously formed and digestible presentation for mainstream audiences. Twenty years on and Hybrid Theory
maintains its seminal status: bound by a prodigious amount of influence that sprawls across numerous genres of music and is still regarded as Linkin Park’s crowning achievement. Indeed, for me and everyone who grew up in the hysterical bubble of Hybrid Theory
in the year 2000, this twentieth anniversary milestone is a noteworthy one, albeit one that will no doubt elicit a couple of poignant emotions from its birthday celebration.
Before we delve into this timeless sonic peregrination it’s worth observing those poignant traits, which are now intrinsically a part of all of Linkin Park’s works these days, but in particular Meteora
and this. Nostalgia is inevitably tied to the experience, but the way you listen to and process an album this far into its life and yours – through all of the trials and tribulations, experiences and glories you’ve gone through or had over the years – it puts a very different outlook on things. Then of course there’s framing the perspective on its creators and the untimely loss of Chester Bennington, who is no longer with us to enjoy this well-deserved celebration. To put it into a more pertinent light: Black Sabbath’s first two seminal albums turned fifty this year. Now consider the fact that all of the band’s members are still alive today to enjoy the adulation of their achievements. My own mortality is something I ponder over from time to time, but these moments of consideration tend to be brought on from a piece of art that’s having an anniversary, and for me seeing the age of this record now, it draws the omnipresent cloud of my own mortality ever closer. That said, even by removing such ruminations of the macabre, freeing the shackles of teenhood and thereby bringing in the context of adulthood, one’s own perception of Hybrid Theory
is bound to be very different.
Chester Bennington, like many great artists, was deeply haunted – damaged even. That’s what makes Hybrid Theory
, and by association Meteora
, so effective. Going back to this album twenty years removed, I think it has aged like a fine wine, all things considered. Bearing in mind this record was responsible for making Linkin Park one of the pioneers of mainstream NU-metal, and lord knows there’s a LOT of albums from that era which have aged terribly and sound like withered products of their time. Hybrid Theory
, however, sounds surprisingly modern and full of vitality. Admittedly, the lyrics are rudimentary and a shade cringey when you sit and listen back to them in your thirties, but for a guy who grew up on this stuff it did the job at the time. Nevertheless, in spite of this, it’s the execution, dynamic, and the talent going into everything else that makes it the worthwhile experience it is today. Chester’s distinct vocal power coupled with his conjoined acrimonious laments are an important fixture for the entire album’s message. After all, this was aimed at teenagers without a voice and because of that it was debatably Chester’s contributions that brought the fans in droves. Of course, Shinoda’s nous, his skillset as a composer, and his performance as a rapper are also very much ubiquitous with Hybrid Theory
. The vocal dynamic between Shinoda and Bennington is still an unparalleled match made in heaven; applying razor-sharp, melodious hooks with a juxtaposition of filthy bars being spat by Mike to form the equilibrium Linkin Park are so well known for; it’s their chemistry and their understanding for each other that makes a lot of these songs the cold-blooded classic they are.
All in all, Hybrid Theory
is brimming with single-worthy songs. Any track on here would represent the record’s prominence admirably, but the historic choices are obvious ones. “Papercut”, “In the End” and “Crawling” are the tip of the iceberg, but they best display the multifaceted array of moods on offer here. Moody, edgy, heavy, melodic, and drawing from a wealth of inspirations from multiple genres that span decades, it’s easy to see why – taking their pragmatic approach and talent into the equation – this album caught such a broad audience the way it did. But even for the naysayers who turn their noses up at the more immediate ideas and lowbrow lyrics, it’s hard to deny the legitimacy of Joe Hahn’s abilities on the electronic exclusive “Cure for the Itch”, a left-field track lathered in samples and one that displays Hahn’s prowess on the decks. But that’s what makes Hybrid Theory
such a formidable record: it’s teeming with variety, has a near flawless pace and more importantly, has songwriting that still holds up today. For as long as Hybrid Theory
exists it will continue to inspire new generations. For people like me, it was a gateway album to the world of heavy music; but more than that, it’s borderless design also ensured that I would appreciate all walks and styles of music, and for that I am eternally indebted to it.
Cure for the Itch
I’ll say right off the bat, Linkin Park has never disappointed when it comes to creating quality physical products and reissues. So be under no illusions when I say that when I heard this was getting a rerelease, I was immensely excited. Hybrid Theory: 20th Anniversary Edition
throws everything but the kitchen at its fans. Most labels would preserve some things from the vault and use them at a later date, but this reissue throws everything from that era at you: Reanimation
, Hybrid Theory EP
, LPU (Linkin Park Underground) tracks, B-sides, live shows, rarities – the list goes on and on. In the truest sense of the word, this is an earnest celebration that humbly respects its fans. Forgotten Demos
brings a range of Xero demos and early Linkin Park tracks that never made the cut, or rough in-the-making versions of songs like “Point of Authority” that offer a different, typically raw perspective. B-Side Rarities
gives us a bunch of rare songs like “Buy Myself Remix” from Marilyn Manson, “My December”, “High Voltage” and a host of live versions from the likes of BBC Live Sessions; and there’s three DVDs to watch that document various periods from the Hybrid Theory
era. Admittedly, it’s understandable why some of the forgotten demos were labelled as “forgotten”. Songs like “She Couldn’t” and “Could Have Been” add an extra layer of context to the Hybrid Theory
canon, but it’s easy to see why they never made the album’s final cut.
For those who like buying physical copies of albums, this will ultimately deliver. The “Super Deluxe” comes in a quality, hard-box package with all of the aforementioned on CD/DVD, plus Hybrid Theory EP
, Hybrid Theory
on vinyl. As well as a sample cassette and an eighty-page book containing unseen photos and interviews with the band – and a couple of nick-nacks for good measure. In short, if you’re a fan of Linkin Park this package is well worth checking out.
In the End
As I said at the start of this (very long) review, the death of Chester Bennington certainly makes this album a hard-hitter contextually these days – more so for someone who grew up with this band. There are albums which get repeatedly uttered throughout the decades and hold an immense place in recorded music’s fruitful history, and after listening to Hybrid Theory
for the first time since just after Chester’s passing, I can rightfully understand why this album has stood the test of time. This record sounds like a blast from the past whilst simultaneously retaining a contemporary edge that makes it endure the way it does. My taste in music might have evolved immeasurably in twenty years but Hybrid Theory
’s position as being the most influentially important album of my life is still second to none.
RIP Chester Bennington, and I tip my hat to the remaining members of Linkin Park – this day is for you and us, the fans.