Criminally Underlistened:”A Thousand Suns” by Linkin Park

Posted: 05/24/2013 in Uncategorized

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This is a groundbreaking effort. These gents have blended Hip Hop, rap, pop and alternative rock  music to create an amalgam of sounds. Billboard ranked Linkin Park No. 19 on the Best Artists of the Decade chart.[4] The band was recently voted as the greatest artist of ’00s in a Bracket Madness poll on VH1.[5] They created a successul smash effort, expanding their hip hop cred with “Collision Course”, their collaboration with Rap/Hip Hop icon, Jay-Z. From “Hybrid” to “Minutes to Midnight” there has been a gradual evolution and polishing of this band’s sound. With “A Thousand Suns”, released in 2010, the changes are radical. I would openly declare that this is their masterpiece…This should be the album for which they will be remembered. Citing another of my favorite bands, Radiohead, “A Thousand Suns” is Linkin Park’s “OK Computer” – a defining effort with epic resonance.

It is a staunch departure from their previous work. Political, powerful, stylistically diverse, though still infinitely listenable.How many albums open with tracks quoting Oppenheimer’s famous “now I have become death…” speech referencing his contribution to the development of the atomic bomb. This is the starting point from which various statements, both overt and covert unfurl. This launch is followed thematically with “Burning in the Skies” which is nearer the mark vocally and production-wise to “Minutes to Midnight”….though Chester Bennington’s …”losing what I don’t deserve” chorus kicks it up a notch, maintaining the sombre, apocolatypic overtones…”In the end we were meant to be apart, like separate chambers of the human heart…”…this folks is genuine poetry. So often modern music is dismissed lyrically with critics referring deferentially to the age of Dylan, the Beatles, Bowie, etc…..this lyricism is equally as good, however.

The vocal chemistry between Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington is consistent throughout, with Shinoda’s rap sensibility juxtaposed with Bennington’s alt rock shreik and strong vocal stylings. It is very easy to get lost in such lines as “swimming in the smoke of bridges I have burned”….again, poetic. “When They Come for Me” with its powerful baseline and backbeat drum work is “dance-y” and more Hip Hop than rock, but no less powerful. Lines like “I am not a pattern to be followed….. “Found out the underbelly is sicker than it seems”…”Once you’ve got a theory of how a things works…everyone wants the next thing to be like the first”… this song has an urban, concrete jungle vibe…yet still maintains the feel of rebellion and protest with intense cross-genre playability. Jornada Del Muerto maintains the tone of loss, desolation….

Easily the greatest track on the album and my personal favorite song for the past 3 years has to be “Waiting for the End”…this song is a veritable smash, playing on most people’s ipod set lists. It is radio friendly, soulful, mournful, expansive and simply stellar. Bennington’s voice has never been in finer form…anyone who is unfamiliar with Ches’ vocal range should look up Linkin Park’s version of Adele’s smash “Rolling in the Deep” or his rendition of “Hunger Strike” with the equally talented Chris Cornell. This man can sing…the video is also fairly trippy and technological in its appearance. “Iridiscent”, “Fallout”, “The Catalyst” firm up this album. Throwing in sound clips of iconic social activist Martin Luther King’s anti war speech and Mario Savio’s proverbial “raging” against the machine strenghten this album’s ongoing social protest. “Wretches and Kings” is powerful, with a tight and grindy beat, see the following lyrics:

Steel unload, final blow
We the animals take control
Hear us now, clear and true
Wretches and kings we come for you
Steel unload, fire blow
Filthy animals beat them low
Skin and bone, black and blue
No more this sun shall beat unto you

This is edgy stuff. The finisher, “The Messenger” ends with a message of hope and faith with acoustic accompaniment backing Ches’s strong vocal flourish. Simply outstanding and worthy of anyone’s listening.

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