Linkin Park

A Thousand Suns

Written by: PP on 03/11/2010 06:29:29

Errr...what the fuck? Did I miss something here? Since when has Linkin Park shifted from a rock band to an experimental music outfit focusing on differing kinds of ambiance and electronic effects? Granted, I skipped "Minutes To Midnight" becuase I heard it was all 'gay ballads' according to the words of my fellow scribe TL, but my understanding was that it was still essentially a rock record, albeit a very, very poppy one. "A Thousand Suns", the fourth Linkin Park record and a concept album dealing with nuclear warfare and themes of war, officially has nothing to do with rock. Nothing. But curiously enough, it's far from the mainstream pop monstrosity such a description otherwise implies, far enough to having made me question several times whether I accidentally queued the wrong disc on my music player whilst listening to the record.

The first thing you'll notice is that it takes about four introductory tracks (!?) before we get into any real songs. These consist of just spoken word samples, dreamy ambiance, and gentle piano strumming alongside the effects-board, and appear to be completely pointless, so much so that I found my attention drifting away before it even properly got there. "When They Come For Me" is the real starting point of the album (what kind of album doesn't properly start before track #5 !?), taking you back a long way down the memory lane. Remember Hybrid Theory? I don't mean the album but the era when Linkin Park used to be called Hybrid Theory, back when they wrote songs like "High Voltage" and "Step Up". This one is a rap only track that goes full circle back to the band's roots, though in a much more ambitious and bigger-sounding format of course. It's not that surprising, to be honest, as all Linkin Park albums have had at least one hip-hop track, but the following track "Robot Boy" is where the real oddities begin. It's an exceptionally dreamy, floating ambient track that recalls some of the post-rock that DR often reviews on this magazine, integrating art rock and avant-garde concepts much in the same way as Radiohead on "Kid A". It has a sense of progressiveness to it, a feeling fortified by a seamless transition to an effect-laden track "Jornada Del Muerto", which in turn morphs nicely into the Barenaked Ladies-styled "Waiting For The End". Just like on the first four introductory tracks, this is an example of how easy it is to go through three or more tracks completely unnoticed because they blend together so well without pauses in between.

At this point I need to ask you the following question: can you believe this is the same band that wrote "Crawling"? Would you ever associate songs like these to Linkin Park if someone played them in your presence without telling you who it is? I seriously doubt it. I mean you come in expecting sweeping nu-metal riffs and scratchy screams in big power choruses, and instead you're met by avant-garde experimentalism of the sort you normally meet on an album by Radiohead or any of their peers. Now that's all fine and dandy as long as you're able to take this album completely out of its Linkin Park context and think of it as an album by mystery band or something. This way, you can argue that there are enough decent tracks here to call the record acceptable and much better than "Minutes To Midnight" by definition, as long as you're able to ignore all the unnecessary fluff designed to further the concept of the record. However, it won't change the fact that this is Linkin Park trying to be Radiohead. The problem is that Radiohead already exists and they are extremely good at what they do, so the bar is set high - too high for Linkin Park - to match.

There's one song where Linkin Park remind us of the band they once used to be: "Blackout". Chester has always been an exceptional screamer thanks to his scratchy, melodic yell, and he sets out to demonstrate that here. It's not at all a nu-metal track, however, because their newly-discovered love for dreamy ambience trickles through the cracks into this song too. The fusion of the two polar-opposite styles is interesting to say the least, but it works, and I'm left wishing for more of this instead of the plain horrible hip-hop track "Wretches And Kings", which qualifies as the worst Linkin Park song to date without a contender in sight. It serves as a nice contrast to "Blackout" though, making it sound better than it probably is in reality. But more importantly, the latter leaves me standing with a questionmark on my face as to why Linkin Park don't continue to build their sound around Chester's awesome scream instead of trying to be something they're clearly not. He barely gets a chance on this record, which is a shame, because it seems that the rest of the band has been free to pursue their artistic ambition in all directions imaginable. In fact, they've done so to the extent that I find it really odd and surprising that Warner Bros was willing to gamble on something as unconventional for a mainstream band as what Linkin Park are trying to do here, because surely the vast majority of this album will go way way way over the head of your typical Linkin Park fan. For that, both the band and the label must be commended, but in the end, no matter which way you twist it, you'll always come out of a listening session to "A Thousand Suns" wondering what on earth happened to Linkin Park and what the fuck is this?


Download: Blackout, Robot Boy
For the fans of: Radiohead, avant-garde pop
Listen: Myspace

Release date 08.09.2010
Warner Bros

Related Items | How we score?
comments powered by Disqus


© Copyright MMXX