“Fine Tuned: The Downfall of Linkin Park” (QuadNews.net)
So it appears that Linkin Park is back on the scene for the first time since Transformers become ‘cool’ again. Linkin Park always sets in a certain feeling of nostalgia for me. I remember sitting in my room as an angst-ridden young 7th grader assembling my first stereo system, anxious to put in my first CD- Hybrid Theory. From the second I closed that six-disc changer I was blown away by the flawless combination of turntables and charged alternative rock. Aside from everyone’s auditory wet dream, In the End, Points of Authority quickly became my favorite teenage jam. Something about the concept of a “Hybrid Theory” just worked for them. Of course the 90’s had been heavily saturated with other rap/rock counterparts, but Linkin Park hit the nail right on the head. And yes, despite what anyone tells you, Reanimation was an awesome album. Soon after, the much anticipated follow up, Meteora, hit the scene. Another flawless release in my personal opinion. In this album they utilized the individual talents of both Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington more extensively on separate tracks. That disc was a solid cover-to-cover listen that stayed planted in my Walkman for a strong few months.
Then came the dry spell. My high school years went by void of any new Linkin Park releases and left me wondering where the wonder children of modern rock had gone. Sure we saw the release of the Jay-Z Collision course but despite its catchy combos we were simply looking at a single-artist reanimation and massive space filler. Not to mention that by the time senior year came I was on the verge of smashing my radio if I heard the “Numb” remix one more time. But wait! A new album release? Yes it was true; just as graduation rolled around and Transformers blew up on the big screen, I was exposed to the first new breath from Linkin Park since I burnt out the last set of AA batteries in my Walkman. The single sounded decent and in an excited rush, I ran to the nearest Newbury Comics and picked up Minutes to Midnight. Yes, you heard me right- I was that excited I actually purchased a CD.
In retrospect, I should have saved the money for a Happy Meal at my nearest McDonald’s because that overly produced excuse of a record caused more indigestion than even the sloppiest of Big Macs. With an audible guitar gracing barely two tracks of the album, I was left in the fetal position mourning the apparent death of the hybrid masters, marking the end of my teenage years. I’m not sure what was more painful, hearing Mike Shinoda try and sing or hearing William Hung accepting a record deal. Thankfully Shinoda did tear it up in the track “Bleed It Out.” However, quite possibly the only thing that kept me engaged with any portion of that album was the carpal tunnel in my wrist from playing Guitar Hero 3 to the repetitive and simplistic riffs of “No More Sorrow,” (which I again paid actual money for). Battered and beaten I returned to my now slightly scratched copies of Hybrid Theory and Meteora.
Alas, even after their musical adultery, Linkin Park and my ears had a hard time parting ways completely. Upon a nostalgia-fueled visit to the band’s MySpace page I noticed a complete revamping with a new single uploaded. Could it be? Reluctant, I clicked the play button and let the track roll. As I grimaced in confusion at the questionable musical structure of “The Catalyst,” the moderately catchy hook caused the angel on my shoulder to convince me into giving them one more shot. The new album was slated to be a concept album, which also left me a shimmer of hope that the band would be utilizing their resources a bit more to accurately portray a story. While I was anxious to listen to the release of A Thousand Suns, I didn’t rush to the store quite yet. Borrowing a friend’s copy the day it was released, I apprehensively placed the crisp new compact disc into my CD-R drive and launched Windows Media Player (yes, I don’t use iTunes and neither should you).
Complete. Failure. What I heard come from my speakers was nothing short of an utter joke. Out of the album’s 16 tracks, 6 of them are some form of an interlude overloaded with a plethora of artificial instruments and distorted samples of pseudo-political dialogue. The final track is a painful attempt at acoustic slow jam that I can’t even describe without being horribly offensive. The only piece of the album that even slightly resembled the work of Linkin Park is somewhat classic formula of Shinoda’s verses with Chester’s wailing on the track “Wretches and Kings.” Even that track was an overly produced shortcoming of band’s true potential and likely to become another overplayed ear sore after becoming quickly licensed to EA sports and ESPN sweepers. How this still train wreck still received positive recognition from mainstream critics is beyond me.
The band keeps delving further and further into this electronic-experimental style and it’s destroying their original fan base. Come on Chester, what happened to the days when I had to shut up when you were talking to me? Guys, if by some chance you come across this piece, know that I will always be a fan (and please don’t hate me). However, after the past few years I need to suggest that the band needs to seriously sit down and revisit their roots. The music is no longer a Hybrid Theory at its core. And in my opinion, that’s the formula that generated the original phenomenon that graced the market. Music doesn’t need change to survive- it needs progression. Until then, I’m on hiatus.
Published Version: The Quad News 10/24/10