LINKIN PARK ( A Thousand Suns)-[download]-
It's funny how the music business works. Release an amazing debut album, and it is generally recognized as such by critics and laymen, helps to set a new genre standard, is replayed for years, and assists the band in building a huge fanbase. After that is when things get weird. If the band in question decides not to vary their formula, makes mediocre music that retains many of the elements of their original material, and plays it safe, their fans stick by them and the critics aren't too harsh (see: the response to my review of the new Goo Goo Dolls album). However, if the band realizes that to make a real, long-lasting impact on the world they must be fluid, maturing with every album, changing their sound, exploring new territory, they are vilified by former "fans" and critics alike. They are disparaged all over the internet, ignored and/or disemboweled by elitist music listeners, and their efforts at making cutting-edge, mature, different music are mocked, whether or not the mockery is justified. And in many cases, it isn't.
Linkin Park is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Though they've certainly never been darlings of the critics, their 2000 debut Hybrid Theory kicked off the decade with an enormous statement: nu-metal can generate good music. Rap and rock don't have to battle - they can be melded together if you have a good, hot blowtorch. 2003's Meteora laughed in the face of the "sophomore slump," stating strongly that loud modern rock music could be good, and establishing Linkin Park as one of the most important and biggest bands of the decade.
At this point, Bennington, Shinoda, and Co. could have released rap/rock/metal albums until the end of time and slowly faded into oblivion as just another ultra-popular radio rock band. But no. They refused to do that. They grew up, lyrically and musically, taking 4 years to put together 2007's Minutes to Midnight. And then the funny part of the music business hit them like a battering ram. Rather than rejoicing, countless ignorant people ignored the band's gorgeous political lyrics ("Hands Held High," "No More Sorrow"), epic explorations of the sonic landscape ("The Little Things Give You Away"), slightly experimental wanderings (the chorus- less "Valentine's Day," the crescendo of "In Pieces"), and catchy-as-fuck recollections of their younger selves ("Given Up," "Bleed It Out"). Perhaps these people didn't mature like Linkin Park did, and remained stuck in their teenage angst or masculine anger. Perhaps they wanted fun music, rather than good music. Perhaps they made assumptions or established expectations rather than opening their minds to a new sound. Whatever the case, Minutes to Midnight was vastly underappreciated, seeing as it was one of the best rock albums of the 00's.
The truth is, Linkin Park were a great hard rock band. If you were a teenager, young adult, or simply in touch with your emotions in the early 00's, they spoke directly to you. But they are no longer that band. Instead, they have matured, experimented, and changed. They have decided that 2.5 albums about anger, alienation, and angst were enough. They have moved on to what really matters in this world - poverty, war, accountability, life, death, inequality...and that's where 2010's A Thousand Suns, Linkin Park's fourth full-length, comes in.
Firstly (yes, I know it'd odd to finally begin talking about the album itself this far into a review), Linkin Park have an obsession with the apocalyptic.