Unless you've been under a rock the last year, you'll know the boys that are Linkin Park. These fortunate five may not have changed the music scene (nu-metal was coined well before they came along), but they have made a fierce imprint.
With "Papercut", "Crawling" and "In the End" hitting the top of the music charts with the determination of a geyser, it is clear that the 13th generation has found a sound they like. Again and again.
Vocalist Chester Barrington has a sexy voice and an even better rhythmic sense. He and Fred Durst have that innate talent of rapping in such a versatile manner that it is never boring, never the same. When he does that nu-metal throaty wail, goosebumps instantaneously occur. Each and every time.
The melange of talent in the group makes for a diverse album. It's not all heavy like Korn and Mike Shinoda's rapping makes for a versatile mix of heavy rock and hip-hop. The music the not-so-quietly lays beneath the vocals are good enough to stand alone, but the vocals are too good to even consider leaving them out. The best example is in "In the End". Barrington's strong notes are as good as any seasoned rockstar during: "I tried so hard / And got so far / But in the end / It doesn't even matter / I had to fall / And lose it all / But in the end / It doesn't even matter."
The scratchy loops and mix of samples are expertly engineered by Don Gilmore. The eddy of sounds swirling through headphones is mesmerizing and proves that this is a far more complex and talented group than the hard rock boy bands of late.
The squingy guitar and thump-thump-thumping of "Papercut" is this generation's "Smells Like Teen Spirit". It is heavy, but not as angry as you might imagine. The layers of guitar and whispering are sexy and alluring. Barrington's "I feel the light betray me" is warm and rich.
Okay, "One Step Closer" is angry. But it has a great pulsing beat and their use of echoey guitars is a nice intro to a chorus of "shut up"s. You will be off your chair in no time.
The beginning of "With You" is beautiful and melodic, although it's rap leading into roaring lyrics over heavy guitar. This is what makes Linkin Park so phenomenal. The blending of the genres keeps the listener rapt, waiting for the quiet interlude between roars and wails.
Water droplets morph into thick organ wahs with a fast, funky beat and a guitar lick that the guitar gods of yesterday can only wish for. This is "Runaway" and it, along with "In the End", is the best track. It is lighter than the rest of the album, with such a funky ass beat that you will be outta your chair in no time.
Sadness permeates "By Myself" and it is heavy metal hard. But within the walls of thrashing wails and guitars, it is full and infectious without even trying.
Hip-hop and rap, drum samples lead "Cure the Itch" which is thick with melancholy and has soundtrack-like piano. It's one of the most beautiful instrumental pieces I have ever heard. Ever. It is dark and sad and leads to thoughts of wide-open spaces, tragedy and choices made/not made. It is 2:37 and ends two minutes too soon.
The incredible rock song "Pushing Me Away" is the last song and it is obvious why. It would've been easy to release this first, leading listeners to believe this is what their sound is. It still has the hard rock mentality, but it is more of a showcase for Barrington as lead singer of a rock band. It is an excellent rock song, but once you've listened to the 11 songs before it, you will be grateful for their innovative use of rap and metal and for leaving plain ol' rock to the less complex boys of standard rock and roll.
Time's recent article on the band (January 28, 2002) slammed the band's empty lyrics, calling their songwriting "confessional yawps". The goal of the band is to get feelings across -- feelings of power, of abandonment, of self-esteem. They do this successfully through both their lyrics and their sound. There are sheer notes that get across the feelings of angst, frustration, and helplessness. There are also lyrics that depict this, like the chorus of "Points of Authority":
"You like to think you're never wrong / You want to act like you're someone / You want someone to hurt like you / You want to share what you've been through / (You live what you learn)"
A band that is young, all 24 with the exception of expert drummer Rob Bourdon at 23, the band have a tough follow up. This album was the top-selling act of 2001, with 4.8 million copies sold. But if any band can supersede it, it's Linkin Park. With the diversity of rap, metal and techno packages under their arm, they will continue to fascinate and challenge music's standard sounds.