Linkin Park, A Thousand Suns

Linkin Park, A Thousand Suns

UPDATE #2: The Linkin Park show scheduled for 2/15/11 at Toyota Center has rescheduled for 3/3/11.]

What you have in A Thousand Suns, the fourth studio album from Linkin Park, is a band at a crossroads. After a multitude of multi-platinum albums, remix albums, live albums, and countless EPs for their massive legions of fans at Linkin Park Underground, they’ve enjoyed a long period of success that’s not only rare but have seen other bands implode or meander into a dysphoric state of disfunction. Aerosmith, anyone?

It’s near impossible for me to even conceptualize the power of our own sun, never mind a thousand, and yet the moniker seems apropos, because a thousand suns not only represents the musical scope of what the band’s trying to achieve but the towering mountain before them as they become their very own Icarus.

Hubris.

Linkin Park got to where they are today by doing things their own way. When they were first in talks to sign their first deal, there was an incredible amount of pressure for them to lose a lot of the nu-metal trappings that launched them into the homes and ear canals of millions of angst-ridden teenagers everywhere. Yet they stood by things their way, and there’s no denying the success afforded them because of that. They have always been pioneers, putting their own signature on hip-hop-infused alternative metal and scream-addled vocals. Yet back in those early days, it always seemed that their innovation was a result of the character of the band, while lately it seems to come from a push against the type that they’ve become pigeonholed in by creating their own success.

Linkin Park has definitely been pushing the limits of their sound since teaming up with producer Rick Rubin on Minutes to Midnight, and it continues on A Thousand Suns. More mid-tempo U2-esque ballads, more choral-like vocals as on “Robot Boy,” more cross-mingling of genres as evidenced by the dancehall-tinged/pop-gothic stylings of “Waiting For The End,” and don’t expect much of the trademarked howling vocals that put Chester Bennington up among the screaming greats of Axl Rose, Davey Havok, and Ronne Radke.

The album definitely seems geared for a band that’s been playing stadiums for years and wants sweeping, anthemic songs that can sweep tens of thousands of people in a rush of emotion all at the same time. And who can blame them? Bon Jovi was once asked if it bothered him that he can only play stadiums now and can’t get the intimacy of smaller venues, and he said he’d play the desert if he could and sell it out a couple of times.

At the same time, Linkin Park is banking that their fans are going to come with them on this new musical journey. Quite frankly, a lot of longtime Linkin Park fans are going to be pissed off and disappointed by this album. They’re going to miss the adrenaline-pushing staples that put Linkin Park on the map. They’re going to miss the connection the band could create with lyrics that captured our experiences, as if they had lived them. They’re going to miss their old notions of who Linkin Park is and what they could be. And yet, that same quality that so disappoints is also the album’s most redeeming quality.

Just as with Minutes to Midnight, the album gets better and better with each listen. It’s like a crazy embryonic parasite that won’t let go of you. At its core, it’s still Linkin Park, it’s not like the band is trying to reinvent itself, only explore new musical territories. Once you lose any preconceptions you harbored and listen to the album on its own terms, you realize how great the album actually is. It’s amazing how the Linkin Park guys are able to do that time and time again; perhaps that’s a testament to the genius of the band and a secret to their success.

Ego.

If I’m disappointed about anything with the album, it’s the sense that the guys seem to be taking themselves a little too seriously these days. It almost seems that they feel burdened to create high art, and I never saw Linkin Park as a band to spark a revolution or cure poverty. They were the band I turned on when I wanted to blast my radio, sing at the top of my lungs, and lose myself for moment or two. I wasn’t expecting it to cure cancer. You have Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, the Beatles, early U2 — I never felt that LP should even try to be those bands. But then again, you don’t eat corn chowder if you don’t plant corn, so in a way I can’t fault them for trying. I just hope that it comes from a place of musical integrity, as opposed to ego or hubris.

Because the fallacy of the ego, which even a band like Linkin Park battles with, is just like Icarus — it can all come crashing down.

[Linkin Park is playing 3/3/11 at Toyota Center, along with The Prodigy.]
(Warner Bros. Records -- 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA. 91505; http://www.warnerbrosrecords.com/; Linkin Park -- http://www.linkinpark.com/; Linkin Park (Myspace) -- http://www.myspace.com/linkinpark)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Saturday, February 12th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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One Response to “Linkin Park, A Thousand Suns

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Tonight: Canned Acoustica II + Linkin Park + The Walkmen + Jucifer + Fair To Midland Rescheduled + More on June 23rd, 2011 at 12:10 am

    […] happily-rescheduled show with Linkin Park at Toyota Center, which we talked about here, here, and here, and the always great Alejandro Escovedo will be ripping it up at the House of Blues […]

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