Artist: Linkin Park
Album: Minutes to Midnight
Comments: If you are between the ages of 18-25 and you claim that you never liked rap-rock music, then you are a fucking liar. I know this because I used to love, LOVE rap-rock, and now I am the most pretentious guy on the block. With the exception of LOTD writer Joe Gilson, who was a child of grunge through and through, I don’t know another person who can honestly make the claim that rap-rock never meant anything to them.
In my opinion, the entire musical sub-genre gets a bad rap. People forget just how well received and important “Walk This Way”, by Aerosmith and Run DMC, and “Bring The Noize” by Anthrax and Public Enemy were, not only to the revitalization of rock music, but to help legitimize rap as an important genre and an art form. People forget that, from 1992 until 1999, the only band making consistently good and relevant protest music was Rage Against The Machine. Rap-rock is not just some useless, angry, frat nonsense like people seem to think it is.
At the same time, this is also the genre that produced Crazy Town, so I’m not giving it a free pass.
My whole point here is that rap-rock might be more relevant than people think, even in the 2000s. In 2003, about three years after the rap-rock bubble burst, Linkin Park released Meteora, a record that replaced the blind rage of 90’s acts like Limp Bizkit and Soulfly with the heartbreak and isolationist angst of emotional bands. Meteora went on to peak at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. Number one on the Billboard 200! In 2003! A rap-rock record! If anyone stood a chance of keeping the dwindling rap-rock genre alive, it was Linkin Park.
Sadly, that pipe dream is over. Minutes to Midnight does the worst thing possible and ditches what made Linkin Park bearable, the rap (and to a lesser extent, the rock) aspect of their music.
Here’s my take on Linkin Park: They are a mildly talented band that was able to tap into something in America’s youth that would allow them to sell records. They were able to strike a chord with the people who still buy records (12-15 year olds) with songs about being frustrated, angry, and heartbroken. And while their stuff was never fantastic, it was just good enough to be listenable (unless you were angry, frustrated, or heartbroken and never got in to punk. Then this shit was right in your wheelhouse). No matter how angsty they got, there was always a balance. No matter how cheezy Chester Bennington’s lyrics were, there was always Mike Shinoda and Mr. Han to balance it with rap. And when Shinoda’s grade-school flow got soft, Bennington would come in with a well placed scream to shift the focus. They worked well together, and if it wasn’t always great, it was always listenable. And it always sold.
Not the case on Minutes to Midnight. There are only two songs on this record that feature Shinoda vocally at all, and one of them, the anti war track “Hands Held High”, is more Fort Minor than Linkin Park. Without Shinoda, its all Bennington on this one, and that is never a good scenario. Bennington is still screaming about the same insecurities and isolation that he’s been toting since Hybrid Theory, only now they sound a little less sincere. Where his angst sounded born from experience on earlier releases, here it just sounds like he doesn’t know what else to say. Worse still is the production of the record, which cuts the guitars and the low end almost entirely out, so even the songs that are meant to be heavy sound hollow and tinny.
Basically, what we have here is a record from a rap-rock band that neither raps nor rocks with any kind of conviction. Sure, maybe Linkin Park are tying to expand their sound, but if that was the case, why not try to expand their songwriting too? Is Shinoda too busy with Fort Minor to focus on his (former?) full time band? I had hopes that Minutes to Midnight would stay the course, not give in to the times, and be Hybrid Theory pt 3. Sadly, nothing lasts forever, not angst, not heartbreak, not even rap-rock. Maybe this record will sell, but it wont sell as much. And if this is the last we hear of Linkin Park (as I suspect it might be), I just wish they had made a more fitting eulogy for rap-rock.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Key Tracks: Bleed it Out, Hands Held High
Worth The Money: No