Even if somehow you’ve never heard a Linkin Park song, you’re familiar enough with their megaplatinum sound: it’s what rings in your mind’s ear whenever you mock rap-rock. On Hybrid Theory (Warner Brothers), the band’s 2000 breakthrough, their sound isn’t really a fusion of “hip-hop” and “metal” (I use quotes because we’re dealing with some pretty received notions of both genres here) so much as a time-share: first rapper Mike Shinoda works endless variations on the message of “The Message” (don’t push me, ’cause I’m close to the edge) in an oddly even-tempered tone while turntables squiggle suggestively behind him, then singer Chester Bennington laboriously scales huge, evenly stacked blocks of monochromatic guitar and vents his rage to the heavens. This is praise, by the way: they’ve found a startlingly direct route to rock-anthem greatness. Hybrid Theory’s “In the End” is an effectively bleak breakup song, thanks in part to Bennington’s reluctance to take the easy way out and curse his ex, and in part to his frustration with being unable to find another target for his rage. Unfortunately “Somewhere I Belong,” the first single from last year’s Meteora, can’t make it out of its own minefield of earnestness–it’s a ballad for lost children, see, and its yearning has all the subtlety of Axl Rose set adrift in act two of West Side Story. But the chorus of “Numb” (“All I want to do / Is be more like me / And be less like you”) distills the band’s major theme–a fear of losing one’s identity in a relationship–to its essence. Despite obvious stylistic affinities, it’s silly to lump their sensibility in with the break-stuff bluster of Limp Bizkit or the daddy-please-don’t hysteria of Korn. Linkin Park’s iconic normalcy is the source of their power–and after decades of hearing the confusion of adolescence sublimated into fantasies of invincibility or nightmares of insignificance, it’s a relief when a band risks clumsiness in its quest for artless, accurate expression of teen angst. With P.O.D., Hoobastank, and Story of the Year. Thursday, January 29, 7 PM, Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont; 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Minchin.