Linkin Park steers from rap to rock on new disc, tour

07.05.2008
Linkin Park went four years between studio albums, and when the band re-emerged this summer with the CD "Minutes to Midnight," its sound had taken several new turns.

Perhaps most obvious was the minimal presence of rap/rock music that defined the band on its 2000 debut CD, "Hybrid Theory."

Still, Linkin Park's popularity did not suffer from the long layoff or the move toward a more straightforward rock sound.

"Minutes to Midnight" has been the breakout rock album of the summer (so far), debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard chart and spawning a single, "What I've Done," that shot to No. 1 on that magazine's modern rock and mainstream rock charts. A second single, "Bleed It Out," is climbing those same two charts.
The band, which will bring its Projekt Revolution Tour on Saturday to First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, may look like a marketing juggernaut as "Minutes to Midnight" piles up sales. But Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington says there was no calculated plan behind the CD other than to clear the musical slate and write songs that felt right.

"(We) just decided that we're not going to write music that we think people want to hear from us," Bennington said. "We're just going to write music that we feel like writing."

In a sense, the approach to "Minutes to Midnight" marked a return to Linkin Park's original musical philosophy after allowing the band's initial success to influence the direction of its second CD, the 2003 release "Meteora."

"When we were writing 'Hybrid Theory,' it wasn't like we were sitting back going, 'All these other people are writing hip-hop and rock songs,' because when we started writing music, the music that we write, there really wasn't any (rap-rock)," Bennington said.

"And with the success of 'Hybrid Theory,' you know, 'Meteora' was kind of like volume two," he said. "We felt like we had to continue down that path because we kind of thought that's what people wanted to hear."

The rap/rock sound served Linkin Park well in its first years.

Formed in 1996 under the original name of Xero by drummer Rob Bourdon, guitarist Brad Delson and MC/vocalist Mike Shinoda, the group later added sampler/scratcher Joe Hahn and bassist Phoenix (David Farrell) before completing the lineup in 1999 with Bennington.

The band made an immediate impact with "Hybrid Theory." The CD sold 14 million copies worldwide (eight million in the United States) and spawned three No. 1 singles, including "Crawling" (a song that won a 2002 Grammy for best hard rock performance).

"Meteora" soared to similar heights. It was followed in 2004 by another hit project, "Collision Course," on which Linkin Park teamed with rapper Jay-Z to create mashups of seven Linkin Park songs and six Jay-Z tracks.

Rap/rock, of course, has fallen out of favor during the time since "Meteora" arrived in stores. And while Bennington said the changing trends didn't prompt Linkin Park to shift its sound on "Minutes to Midnight," the new CD fits nicely in a rock scene in which the melodic guitar pop of bands such as Fall Out Boy and the Killers and the heavy mainstream rock of groups such as Nickelback and Hinder have been leading the way on the charts.

Rap makes token appearances on "Minutes to Midnight" (on songs such as the rocker "Bleed It Out" and the anti-Iraq war ballad "Hands Held High"), and those songs aren't really defined by the rap element.

Instead, the bracing rock of "Bleed It Out" carries over to rap-less tracks such as "Given Up" and "No More Sorrow."

An even bigger signature of the CD emerges in songs such as "Shadow of the Day" and "Leave Out All the Rest." The former song is a midtempo song that sounds as though it could have been on a U2 or Coldplay album. "Leave Out All the Rest" has a tender melody and vulnerable lyrics.

Even the blockbuster hit "What I've Done," a harder rocker, shows the softer side of Linkin Park by pulling back on the tempo and the edgy guitars.

Fans will get their first chance to hear how the songs from "Minutes to Midnight" blend with older favorites on Saturday, when the Projekt Revolution tour reaches Tinley Park.

The fourth installment of the package tour, this year's edition lacks the strong hip-hop element of previous outings. Instead, the tour features nearly an all-rock lineup, with My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, HIM, Placebo and Julien-K forming the main-stage lineup.

Bennington is aware of the shift from hip-hop, but said the band just wanted to create the strongest lineup possible.

"It's like every band on the bill is known for touring, known for putting on good shows, known for drawing good crowds," he said. "You know, Placebo, they're legends in my opinion, and it's like if that was Projekt Revolution on its own, I'd be stoked if I was a fan."

Daily Southtown - August 31, 2007


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