A month on from Chester Bennington’s death, I still can’t believe we’ve lost a singer who was so much more than a frontman for just Linkin Park. Wasn’t he actually a frontman for all our lives? Wasn’t he saying what so many of us felt so that we could experience that cathartic rush of singing along with him? The answer to both those questions is yes.
And yet, despite the fact, that I took Chester and Linkin Park dead-seriously from day one, it strikes me that, actually, maybe I wasn’t taking them seriously at all.
This was my review of Hybrid Theory way back when:
‘I’m paranoid,’ ‘I’m about to break,’ ‘I’m left in the wake of the mistake’ – so go the first three songs on this debut from California’s Linkin Park. No one can accuse this upset sextet of forgetting what their point is. Indeed, they tap whole-heartedly into the unhappy psyche of a generation neatly warmed up by Korn. This is teen-angst at boiling point.
And yet, despite its content, Hybrid Theory is just as colourful as a high street window display. It’s nu-metal for a Top Shop generation. Yes, the band have problems that keep them in floods of tears but there’s no denying the sense of satisfaction that comes from being totally and utterly miserable. It almost makes you feel good.
So it’s in that paradoxical frame of mind that the melodramatic Chester Bennington sings, ‘My life is broken, ‘I’m stuck on the outside’ etc. All this emotion is suitably over-egged by guitars like bulldozers, not one but two panicky vocalists (the other is ‘rapper’ Mike Shinoda) plus a DJ – Linkin Park certainly aren’t ones for leaving space in their songs.
Which is fine; the result of this American outfit’s kitchen sink packing is an album filled to bursting with melodic intensity. In The End is a soaring anthem, With You is magnificently affecting and Crawling is insanely infectious. The list could go on. This album has no filler. Resist it if you can.
It’s an okay write-up in the sense that at least it makes the album sound almost as amazing as it is. But in the sense that it completely fails to really give credit to the band’s feelings, it’s a useless review. I make Hybrid Theory’s lyrics out to be over-the-top and I suggest that Chester and co. must be getting some sense of satisfaction from being so upset.
Clearly, we now know that there was no satisfaction to be found in Chester’s depression. Hybrid Theory wasn’t the sound of him just throwing a tantrum and then getting over it. And I guess the lesson I’m going to learn is to never underestimate anybody’s emotions. If someone’s angry, I’m going to try to understand why. If someone’s sad, I’m going to try to empathise. And if people have problems that they can’t seem to get past, I’m going to hope they can at least make some kind of peace with them. Because life’s worth living and, given that I’ve listened to their records constantly for nearly seventeen years, I really can’t believe that I never took Linkin Park’s lyrics seriously enough to realise that Chester Bennington didn’t quite see that.