It’s all about the music…
For the past year I have been withholding a deep secret. I haven’t even told it to my family or my closest friends, for fear of persecution.
But it’s time I step out from the shadows and stop living a dishonest life. It’s time I stop lying to the people I love.
It’s time I admit that Linkin Park is my new favourite band.
I never meant for this to be the case. I honestly didn’t. But sometimes the musical wind takes you in all sorts of crazy directions and you just have to succumb to the pressure.
Before I go any further, allow me to take a few steps back. My pro-LP propaganda will perhaps be easier to swallow if you know the full story.
When LP first burst onto the scene in the early 2000s, they were all the rage. They were the pioneers of what appeared to be a new genre: part-metal; part-rap; part-rock; part-electro. They had a bundle of hits to back them up, too. Chester Bennington’s aggressive shouts on One Step Closer were surprisingly catchy, while Mike Shinoda’s lyrical repertoire on In The End was contagious.
Yet it didn’t take long before I turned my back on the group, as did my peers. Just years after their meteoric breakthrough, LP was no longer cool; they were just another mainstream rock act. I recall an older acquaintance being chastised for wearing a LP t-shirt. The accused was deeply apologetic about his fashion faux pas, desperately searching for excuses for his wardrobe malfunction.
Over the next five years I barely noticed LP’s progress. As a Triple M listener (another embarrassing confession) I would hear the occasional single, but rarely would I give it much attention. I was too busy trying to discover my own music preferences, experimenting with punk, progressive rock and various nuances of indie.
Only recently have I been open minded enough to re-engage with mainstream music. Instead of judging bands on their genre or popularity (or lack thereof), I’ve gone back to the phase one. All I care for now is the music.
If it sounds good, I like it. If it doesn’t sound good, I don’t like it. And if you like it, I won’t necessarily judge you.
Such an attitude has seen me embrace bands I would have never contemplated touching. In the last 12 months alone, I’ve fallen in love with Frank Sinatra, joined the Hanson online fan club, and collected the discography of Kanye West. And when everybody complained about Angus and Julia Stone being too popular, I brazenly refrained from jumping off the bandwagon. Indeed, I’m shamelessly nodding my head to “Big Jet Plane” as I write.
The band I’ve been most impressed by, however, has been Linkin Park. And I enjoy their music now for the same reasons why I liked them a decade earlier. LP’s eclectic blend of metal, rap and sweet piano touches remains novel and exciting. While brave enough to try new things, they’ve simultaneously remained stubbornly loyal to their distinct sound even in the face of criticism.
A Thousand Suns was the album that restored my faith, courtesy of my local library branch. At the time of reconciliation, I justified to myself that I was only borrowing this record “just to see what they were up to”. But I got more than what I bargained for.
Instead of finding a washed-up pop group, I uncovered a musical act willing to push the limits ironically imposed by a genre they concocted. I concede that the limits of 4/4 chord-progression rock can only extend so far. But what LP’s new work lacked in structural innovation, it compensated with instrumental dynamism, electronic experimentation, and bold attempts at stadium rock. The conversational exchanges between Chester and Mike – LP’s most iconic ingredient – remained, but everything surrounding it was turned on its head.
As A Thousand Suns became the new soundtrack to my life, I found a sudden desire to turn back the clock to see what I’d been missing out on. On Minutes to Midnight¸ I found myself rattling my keys to “Given Up” and shaking my tambourine to “Bleed It Out” – two power-rock anthems unapologetic in their level of intensity. On Collision Course – the band’s collaboration with Jay-Z – I was awestruck by “Numb/Encore”, arguably the neatest mash-up this century of music has produced.
While listening to Meteroa – LP’s cinematic sophomore record – I recalled my initial reasons for jumping ship. But I realised I had judged this band for a crime they never intended to commit. What made me so vain to ever think a band’s commercial success was enough reason to reject their art?
I acknowledge that not every music listener will share my sentiment. To many critics, Chester’s incessant yelling will always be incessant yelling, and Mike’s rhymes will never match those of Eminem. LP, to them, will remain daggy until the day they die.
But to be honest, I don’t care. Even if the music itself says nothing about my personality or sub-culture, I’m proud to claim Linkin Park as my guilty pleasure. Their entire discography – for reasons I cannot quite fathom- is music to my ears. It’s not a conscious decision I’ve made; there’s simply something about their noise which resonates with the chemicals in my body. And I don’t think there’s any shame in embracing that.