So Linkin Park’s latest album, The Hunting Party was released this week, and several people have requested I share my thoughts on it. I didn’t realize I was known as a guy with Linkin Park opinions, but fair enough! Let’s do it!
Let’s start with a BIG GIANT DISCLAIMER though – I am not writing this post because I think I am right. I am not implying I have refined taste in music. I do not think Linkin Park is the greatest band of all time (the Beatles, however, are), but I do like them. So if you disagree with my opinion below, great! (If you paid money for the album, I actually hope you do disagree with me). I would love to hear YOUR thoughts. We’re allowed to disagree, so be polite about it.
Additionally, if you want to let me know that you think Linkin Park TOTALLY SUCKS and is a HACK BAND for WANNABES – save your breath. I sincerely do not care. I’m not embarrassed about my likes and dislikes, and this isn’t middle school. This goes for friends of mine who I know are reading this right now and really really want to write a stupid comment ESPECIALLY because I wrote this paragraph. I won’t think it’s cute. I am really sick of the internet snark machine.
So, The Hunting Party… I had high hopes for this record. Like several of you have mentioned, I thought Living Things–while decent–was just kind of a bland watered down version of what I go to Linkin Park for. HP actually snuck up on me, as I only found out about it three weeks ago! And when I did some research, LP was calling it their heaviest album in a long time, and returning to the roots of their sound, and the bands that inspired them. Awesome. Sign me up.
So let’s jump back in time so everyone can follow along with my expectations. Hybrid Theory. We all remember when “One Step Closer” came on the radio, with its screaming and it’s very repetitive lyrics. In fact, I remember complaining to multiple friends that “Shut up!” is not compelling lyrics. But it was stuck in my head all the same. “Crawling” on the other hand, was great. (Writing all this in 2014 sounds incredibly trite and terrible… these songs have been so overplayed at this point it’s practically meaningless). The first time I heard “In the End”, it was over. I went immediately to purchase the album.
I was not disappointed. It opened immediately with “Papercut” and blew my mind. Hybrid Theory was exceptional in that despite the weak radio start with “One Step”… nearly every song on the album was single-worthy (appropriately enough, nearly every song became a hit single). Incredibly tight stuff. I loved it. Every so often you hear a song or band or group or singer that just vibrates your mind bones. It isn’t necessarily the BEST thing, or your FAVORITE thing… but it resonates on an internal level. It speaks to you.
I’m not much more than a guy who is passionate about stuff and loves video games… so it’s not surprising that Chester screaming over electronic noises struck a chord.
I listened to Hybrid Theory a lot. I started every session of Phantasy Star Online with it (200 hours played), had it on loop in my car, and of course the near constant play on KROQ. There wasn’t a single track I ever wanted to skip, the album is so perfectly cohesive.
The band took their sweet time creating Meteora (3 years!!!) and of course I was looking forward to it. I remember the night before release, KROQ debuted the first four songs off the record and I was late to work, sitting in my car listening to every one of them. On the documentary disc that came with the album, LP spoke a lot about their insane OCD-dedication to making everything sound perfect. Well it paid off and they did the impossible… Meteora was just as tight as Hybrid Theory. I walked around my college campus with headphones on, gazing around and feeling moody and brooding and such.
There were a lot of complaints from critics about it sounding exactly like Hybrid Theory. To an extent that’s true. If you ignore “Foreword” they’re the same length, with the exact same structure and a second-to-last track that’s just scratch bragging. But that was Linkin Park and it’s exactly what I (and millions of others) wanted. My best friend pointed out how brief both records are as their main flaw… so we crammed them both on a single disc and that became my new go-to disc. (He still refers to their first album as “Hybrid Meteora”). I wore them the heck out. I listened to that music so much it lost all meaning.
So naturally I was excited for Minutes to Midnight and their promised “different sound”. I was sure it would be amazing. even if it was a drop in quality… it would still be incredible. LP hadn’t done anything less than amazing in my eyes, so it felt pretty safe. I had to wait FOUR YEARS, but the day finally arrived, and I bought it before work so I could hear most of it before my day started.
And it was Minutes to Midnight. It seemed to alternate between “classic LP but with a keyring instead of a keyboard” and then… songs I would never want to hear again. I think there’s 2 songs KROQ occassionally plays from this record, and that’s all of it I need to hear. I haven’t listened to this album in some time.
Roughly 3 years later, I was at a lunch meeting with some people including someone from a record company, and they said “Do you want to hear the upcoming Linkin Park single?” Well yes, yes I did. What they played for us was ”The Catalyst”, probably the best song LP’s ever done in my opinion. All the weirdness of MtM vanished, and I was excited out of my mind for A Thousand Suns. It was like old LP but edgier, more electronic, sharper. I was in for a ride!
Thousand Suns was NOT that. Not remotely. It was a concept album through and through, with a lot of deep meandering tracks that weren’t really what anyone expected from LP… so that vanished even faster than Minutes…
…until about a year later, when I was doing some writing for fun on a novel that doesn’t exist, and I popped the disc in just because. I discovered Thousand Suns is PERFECT for background music. It’s just as cohesive as Hybrid Theory… it’s just an entirely different album so rather than charge me up, it give sme the nice Linkin Park jab I like when writing or creating, without the distraction of lyrics jumps in tone (except for the abysmal “When They Come for Me”).
So Thousand Suns is not what I normally want from LP, but I can appreciate it. A scant two years later, they released Living Things–again, with a very promising single. To its credit, my brain parses the cover image as a bandaged Evangelion so… props. But as I related above, it’s just not what I was hoping for. It’s back to their roots ENOUGH. It’s cohesive ENOUGH. But the songs just aren’t standout (but for a few…standouts). It feels like Linkin Park not trying. It’s what people accused Meteora of being–watered down Hybrid Theory. Except where Meteora was still hard hitting and passionate, Living Things feels just kind of there.
It’s just as effective as background noise for when I’m working as Hybrid or Meteora–but that’s only because I wore out those first two discs. it’s like I was tired of Living Things before I’d ever listened to it.
Which brings us again–another scant two years later–to The Hunting Party. A harder, more experimental record than Living Things. I tracked down the first single apparently, “Guilty all the Same”. It’s very solid, but unremarkable. But that’s not terrible, I wasn’t all that fond of “One Step Closer” after all.
So on release day, after getting several requests to write this very blog, I fired up Spotify and went about my day, with Linkin Park in my headphones.
About 35 minutes later I had to remind myelf I was listening to Linkin Park, unfortunately. (Just in time for an excellent instrumental featuring Tom Morello, to its credit). Now there were a few eyebrow perks. They channel Offspring a little bit in “War” (as if to bribe me), and there are some Yamaoka-esque touches here and there, but overall I’m not into it. I keep trying–I’ve listened to it probably 20 times through at this point, and it all just mushes together into a pile of angst and yelling (which is what the critics have always accused LP of). If Living Things was LP just not trying… Hunting Party is a different band trying really hard to be LP.
I do like several tracks. “Keys to the Kingdom” is good, but not as strong as their usual “come out swinging” opening tracks. As mentioned, “Guilty” is solid and catchy. I absolutely adore “Until It’s Gone”. Best song on the record. Half the time I enjoy “Rebellion”. But the other tracks vanish at best and just grate on me at their worst. Every LP record since Minutes has at least one track that is just “off”. It’s technically Linkin Park but they’re trying something different that maybe should have been a B-side or something away from an official studio album. Your “Valentine’s Day”s, your “When They Come for Me”s, and “Lies Greed Misery”. Hunting Party feels like an entire album of those songs.
Which is maybe great. Maybe I’m the only one who dislikes those tracks and most people see them as promises of what LP COULD be – those people will probably enjoy Hunting Party. For me, “Until it’s Gone” is extremely prophetic, following the lyric “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” with some trailing electronic beats.