Linkin Park’s Meteora — Rock

May 7, 2003 at 12:00 am
Oh, how I wanted to love this album. In my dreams, I envisioned it all — taking the CD home from the store, removing the cellophane that surrounded it, cuddling with it by the warm fire, starring into the jewel case longingly, knowing that for that moment it was just us, just me and Meteora.

Things didn’t quite work out that way — they never do. But I really did go into this experience hoping for the best. Linkin Park in the past had actually given me a lot to like. For one, they have a weird obsession with robots, and their last album, Reanimation, had a Transformer on the cover. Couple that with the guitarist’s habit of wearing oversized headphones on stage, like he’s controlling some sort of stereo equipment, and you have yourself one of the coolest shticks in rock since Devo.

Meteora kicks off with “Foreward,” which is way too similar to the theme from Mortal Kombat: The Movie for my liking. However, this was different enough from the normal Linkin Park fodder to keep the hope alive.

By “Don’t Stay,” it all came rushing back; the entire reason I had ever written off Linkin Park as the generic, boring, rap-rock archetype. The guitars parts lack riffs, per sé — they usually just form walls of distorted schlock. I’m not saying guitars have to play riffs or melodies or even a rhythm; many bands have forsaken those and made beautiful music. But in Linkin Park’s case, it’s just plain ugly. All this is topped with resident angry white guy Chester Bennington vocals, and the occasional “rapping” of Mike Shinoda. “Somewhere I Belong,” the album’s first single, fits snugly into the mold of a Linkin Park song, which at this point follows a pretty tight recipe. Songs usually start with a short random intro — usually some sort of industrial beat — and after about 10 seconds the rawk kicks in and Bennington begins his long-winded whine-sing. During the chorus, Shinoda often fumbles through a rap, and the DJ — hitherto totally inaudible — can make a few random scratches. That’s pretty much every song, folks.

In the lyric department, I got the feeling they were phoning this one in. Lines about personal anguish (“I want to let go of the pain I’ve held so long;” “Erase all the pain ’til it’s gone” or “Replacing this pain with something more”) litter the record. When the band is singing about pain, they are usually pandering to their teenage audience. The band plays up every cliché imaginable; topics range from run-of-the-mill “nobody understands me!” disillusionment to pointless, aimless anger. It was all kind of sad, coming from a group of millionaire guys in their mid-to-late 20s. The one pleasant surprise came in “Nobody’s Listening,” which provided a fairly smooth beat around a sample from a kung fu movie. The rapping was still godawful, but it was a nice break from the otherwise nails-on-a-chalkboard tedium.

Song after seemingly endless song bombarded me from all sides. I suddenly sympathized the plight of the innocent Iraqi people; I had finally felt true torture. Then something odd happened. About halfway through the album, I noticed a strange feeling had begun to overcome me. Suddenly, I knew what it was to be a suburban, middle-class male. I was angry, and sick of people telling me what to do. “No, you clean your room, Mom!” I found myself thinking. Nobody was going to push me around any more. “Tired of being what you want me to be” Linkin Park said forcefully in the song “Numb,” and I knew I wasn’t alone. I had a right to be so mad — I was the victim here. Where there once was a feeling of comfort and happiness, there was now a void that could only be filled by head-banging, or breaking something. Linkin Park spoke to me, and I finally knew what I had been missing out on.

The CD left me feeling depressed; I had given the band a chance and they let me down. They had betrayed my trust. Luckily, the CD was only 36:41 long. Perhaps it was an act of mercy on the part of the band. Maybe even they, the masters, couldn’t come up with another song that included the word “pain” six or seven times. If the CD was any longer, I may have been trapped in a world of angst ... forever!

Brian Smith: The writer offers up a critique of Meteora from the point of view of a disappointed 17-year-old fan. His assessment links the album’s tediousness to his own sympathy for the plight of innocent Iraqis and a sudden burst of suburban white-kid guilt. Nicely done.