Album Review: Linkin’ Park, “Hybrid Theory” (2000)

Man, I had a lot of rage when I was fourteen. I’m not really sure what I had to be angsty about, really: I still lived at home with my mom, didn’t have to pay any bills, didn’t have to work, and I don’t even recall my homework being very hard. But for some reason, I have vivid memories of me coming home from school, throwing my backpack on the floor, and falling back into my bed with a huff as I put on some angry music to match my mood.

Linkin’ Park was one of my favorite “angry” bands during my teenage years- something about the resentful lyrics, paired with lead singer, Chester Bennington’s, fierce delivery spoke to me. The California-based rock band (which also includes guitarist Brad Delson, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Mike Shinoda, drummer Rob Bourdon, and turntablist Joe Hahn) released their debut album, Hybrid Theory in 2000, and it was on heavy rotation in my CD player for most of my teen years.

Though I’m a lot older now, and admittedly have a lot less rage-filled moments, I still return to Linkin’ Park’s debut every once in awhile, most specifically when I’m having a bad day.

The sounds of a turntable scratching and chaotic guitar introduces the first song on the album, Papercut. One of the things that really set Linkin’ Park aside from the other rock bands in the early ‘00 was the group’s combination of rock and rap in their songs. While Bennington does the singing (or screaming, in some cases), Shinoda provides some fast-paced rapping during the verses. The blend of the rock/rap influences are a perfect combination, and are part of what I’ve always enjoyed about Linkin’ Park as a band. This particular song features Shinoda rapping during the verses, and though the song doesn’t have any especially memorable lyrics or melody, it’s still a decent start to the album.

Things get really good with the disc’s lead single, One Step Closer. From the moment I heard this song, I was a fan; the guitar work is brilliant and Bennington sounds appropriately outraged as he screams his way through the lyrics (“Everything you say to me/Takes me one step closer to the edge/And I’m about to break/I need a little room to breathe/’Cause I’m one step closer to the edge/I’m about to break”). The best part of the track, however, is the breakdown towards the end, when Bennington seems to completely lose his patience and starts crying out, “Shut up when I’m talking to you! Shut up!” In retrospect, this all seems a bit melodramatic, but hey, I’ve had days (even now) where I felt like just screaming for someone to shut up, too.

Shinoda’s rapping is back for With You, a midtempo track that’s surprisingly sentimental. Even though the tempo has been slowed down, Bennington’s delivery still seems harsh, despite the lyrics being about wanting to be reunited with someone (“It’s true/The way I feel/Was promised by your face/The sound of your voice/Painted on my memories/Even if you’re not with me/I’m with you/You”). Points of Authority is actually the song where Bennington does less yelling and more singing, at least during the verses. Of course, the momentum picks up and the scratching turntables return by the chorus. This song is one of the few on the album that’s actually melodic, and the tune and lyrics about rejecting authority make the song a favorite of mine.

Linkin Park at the Novarock Festival

However, one of my absolute favorite Linkin’ Park songs is Crawling, which appears next. I can literally think of nothing better on a bad day than listening to Bennington’s wailing as he cries out during the chorus of this track. This song is another that’s somewhat melodic- the verses are slowed down, almost to a ballad-like tempo, and Bennington’s singing voice (though a bit nasally) sounds nice. By the chorus, he’s amped up to full-on anger, and the raging depression he sings of is palpable. Clashing guitars introduce By Myself, another of the album’s highlights. Shinoda takes up the lead of this song, quietly rapping during the first verse, before exploding into a chorus about battling with self-doubt. The lyrics are pretty depressing (“I put on my daily facade but then/I just end up getting hurt again/By myself/I ask why, but in my mind/I find I can’t rely on myself”), but I don’t feel as though anyone listens to Linkin’ Park because they’re in a good mood necessarily; at least, I only seemed to listen to them when I was already feeling down and just needed someone- even a rock band- to validate my feelings.

Still, the best song on the entire album has to be In The End. I remember being captivated by this track when it was first released in 2001, and it’s still a favorite of mine now. Up to this point on the album, Shinoda’s raps have been mostly taken up the verses, with Bennington singing during the choruses. In The End brings the two of them together during the verses- with Shinoda rapping a line, and Bennington singing it directly after. The minor-key composition, paired with the contrast between Bennington and Shinoda’s voices is brilliant. The lyrics are also well-written (“I tried so hard/And got so far/But in the end/It doesn’t even matter/I had to fall/To lose it all/But in the end/It doesn’t even matter”), and this song has become a classic of its time.

The rest of the album, though still decent, falls into the category of mediocre. Songs like Runaway and Forgotten sound fair enough while listening, but are ultimately pretty forgettable overall. In fact, the last half of the album is pretty bland. Even the last track of the album, Pushing Me Away, feels uninspired; though Shinoda and Bennington are at top form vocally, the music sounds so similar to the majority of the tracks we’ve already heard on the album that it feels more like a moment of deja vu, rather than a new song.

Linkin Park’s debut album, Hybrid Theory, isn’t anything revolutionary by far, but the disc is still an admirable effort of modern rock/rap tunes. The dark lyrics and subject matter might be more of the draw for some, though the band should also be credited for producing impressive melodies, as well.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track List
1.Papercut
2.One Step Closer
3.With You
4.Points Of Authority
5.Crawling
6.Runaway
7.By Myself
8.In The End
9.A Place For My Head
10.Forgotten
11.Cure For The Itch
12.Pushing Me Away

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gd9OhYroLN0]
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