Monday, June 04, 2007

Album Review; Linkin Park "Minutes to Midnight"

When Linkin Park released “Hybrid Theory” back in 2000 I was one of the countless millions who jumped on the band wagon and immediately became a fan (I had just turned 18 FYI). The way they blended rock and rap was unlike any other band I had heard at the time and even though many other bands had experimented sonically with it before, they were the first band to make it sound revolutionary. And that’s what I though Linkin Park was to become; revolutionary. I assumed they were going to continue to push their unique brand of rap-rock and expand upon it.

But alas, this was not to be. Since 2000 what has become prevalent in rock isn’t rap-rock anymore. That has been replaced by the faux-emo/screamo scene. Yet, what makes Linkin Park still so attractive and popular is lead singer Chester Bennington’s ability to encompass the same territory that all of the other mediocre screamo bands do today, but better. Linkin Park’s uniqueness derives from their ability to combine both Chester’s melodic emotional whaling with Mike Shinoda’s fast and furious rapping; a combination that boasted all their success on “Hybrid Theory”. In fact the name "Hybrid Theory", which was the band’s name before Linkin Park, expresses their belief in the successful combination of rap and rock.

However what has becomes immediately apparent on their new album “Minutes to Midnight” is that their patented mix of rap-rock is no longer apart of their formula for success. Linkin Park is still one of the biggest headlining acts in rock music, and with each album they have been trying to match the success and stature of “Hybrid Theory” and carefully representing themselves along the way. So for “Minutes to Midnight” they hired producing legend Rick Rubin and sat (supposedly) on a wealth of material to trim down to one compact album. But once you hear “Minutes to Midnight” its easy to conclude that Linkin Park has succumbed to the pressure of staying on the top of the charts instead of being musically adventurous, sadly because it almost abandons everything they once supposedly stood for.

There is nothing wrong with going in a different direction musically, as long as it’s for the right reasons of course. On “Minutes to Minutes” Linkin Park appears to diverge from their rap-rock roots for all the wrong reasons. The album relies on Chester’s emo-tional singing as a crutch for the sole purpose of knowing his emo voice is their trump card. That was a wrong assumption to make, and the two tracks that merge Shinoda’s rap with Chester’s vocals (“Bleed it Out” & “Hands Held High”) just so happen to be the best tracks on the album. I’m not sure what’s more ironic, that they employed legendary rap-rock producer Rick Ruben only to stay away from rap-rock, or that their best tracks are the ones that actually use rock-rap. On Shinoda-less tracks like “Valentines Day” and “Leave out the Rest” Chester presents emo-ballad lyrics like “I dreamed I was missing, you were so scared, but no one would listen, cause no one else cared”. Not only are these songs un-melodic and bland, but Chester’s lyrics are so ambiguous it seems he wrote them just to appeal to his angst filled teenage audience, not because they are sincere. Songs like these serve as nothing but filler, and without Shinoda equaling out Chester’s introspection, there is no versatility to the tracks that were once so relevant on “Hybrid Theory”.

Either way, there is nothing exciting about this album. “Minutes to Midnight” might sell well because they knew what would keep them profitable and on top of the pops, but it doesn’t make them any better then the rest of the bands that follow the same shtick. In fact it’s downright embarrassing that Linkin Park has lost confidence in their merging of rap-rock to accommodate to an audience of lesser concern. But what’s more embarrassing is the audience that Linkin Park is trying to attend to, and how they might consider this a good album. For shame, you faceless audience, you should expect more from your music.

2 out of 5 stars