Linkin Park was one of the last bands to get its foot in the nu metal door. Perhaps ironically, it is also the group that helped to slam it shut. By the time Linkin Park released its debut album, “Hybrid Theory” in 2000, the genre was already five years old. Despite a weepy Aaron Lewis and a ridiculous Fred Durst dominating the television and radio airwaves, a sense of self-preservation had to be creeping in amongst the groups that populated the nu metal scene.
History warned it was inevitable that nu metal was going to die. Hair metal had ruled the 80’s. Quiet Riot let the world feel the noise. Ratt went round and round. Warrant regaled baked goods. But even though their tapes were filling boomboxes nationwide, a musical foundation of looking like a transvestite had to crumble. Maybe it’s Maybelline. Maybe it’s Dee Snider, dude. It shouldn’t be a complete shock that it only took one video from a flannelled janitor in the northwest to topple Rikki Rocket’s tower.
That cancer-eating custodian was, of course, Kurt Cobain. While hair metal had failed to recognize its vulnerability and was vaporized by outside forces, the grunge era ushered in overnight by Nirvana was doomed to destroy itself. If hairspray and homoeroticism were not pillars on which music could durably stand, then surely not bathing and heroin abuse had even less structural integrity. Kurt Cobain shot himself. Layne Staley pummeled himself with heroin and cocaine until his body’s last viable function was to percept pain. Mudhoney failed to sell any records because they chose the name “Mudhoney.” Three tragic demises, all self-inflicted, and emblematic of the exit that grunge itself made.
Static-X tried with “Shadow Zone,” and when everyone got done laughing at Wayne Static’s singing, a deep feeling of pity followed when they realized he didn’t intend it as a joke. Korn, deities of nu metal, had the perfect opportunity to push into the new territory with “Untouchables.” But this confusing record featured Jonathan Davis singing about the same lame anguish that had undergirded four previous albums, all to the wonderful backdrop of a synth purchased at Walgreens, and managed to permanently cripple an at-the-time-dominant band’s relationship with its fans. It began to look more and more like nu metal would have to receive the execution slug from an outside source. Then Linkin Park released “Meteora.”
I have never owned a Linkin Park album. I almost certainly never will own a Linkin Park album. But this band became such a bona fide media monster with the release of Meteora that their hits are seared into the deepest reaches of my subconscious. Alzheimer's may liberate me from my birthday and my childhood memories, but it can't unshackle Linkin Park tunes.
"What's your name, Grandpa?"
"Caught in the undertow."
"You shit your pants again, Grandpa!"
"Just caught in the undertow."
Linkin Park was everything that nu metal wanted to be when it grew up. It had the DJ. It had the co-singer rapping away. It had the 2:30 songs of synth and sample that Korn was incapable of producing. But it also had melodies capable of tapping a larger audience, driven mostly by the undeniably great voice of Chester Bennington, and which gave the group staying power. There’s a reason why Chester was just on Saturday Night Live and David Silveira was just seating you at a restaurant.
Linkin Park was the first and last rat off the nu metal ship. And even though it was in itself a classic nu metal record, Meteora inflicted the fatal breach of the S.S. Ross Robinson’s hull. Despite all this, I don’t consider anything off of Meteora to be Linkin Park’s one-track statue of nu metal. That tune came from its debut release, “Hybrid Theory.”
One Step Closer --- Hybrid Theory --- 2000
Seriously, this may be THE nu metal anthem. It’s just a shade over 2:30, which is usually code for “We had an idea for a chorus that can’t support verses.” Of course a short bridge has to be tossed in, and I can’t think of a more quintessentially juvenile entry than “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up when I’m talking to you!” Lateralus, it ain’t.
My feelings about this song paralleled nu metal as a genre. I thought both were nothing short of sweet while they were fresh and new, but within a relatively brief period of time, my interests changed along with my voice.
Shut up when I’m talking to you
Shut up, Shut up, Shut up
Credit given to Linkin Park for writing its own lyrics. Demerits given for spending 30 seconds on them.
Except for that Foo Fighters video making fun of Mentos commercials, music videos in general are incredibly stupid. This one is no exception. I’m sure you are confused by what in the world Linkin Park was trying to do here, so let me break it down:
0:01 – Loitering youth hang out in the rain without getting wet
0:11 – Local druid catches their fancy as he enters an abandoned cat food warehouse
0:22 – Youth fear death by Druid
0:28 – It’s worse: Linkin Park is there
0:37 – Keyboard player is still alive on Survivor: LA Sewer System
0:40 – Producers decide Linkin Park in the sewer isn’t bizarre enough
0:43 – Send in the levitating ninjas!
1:01 – Law school dropout is ashamed to be here, yet happy not to be in torts class
1:14 – Chester Bennington makes it ten years away from the weight room
1:28 – What the fuck?
1:50 – Chester and the other-singer-whose-name-nobody-knows yell at each other
1:58 – Floating ninjas threatened by Rain-X youth
2:14 – Breakdown isn’t sad enough. Let’s invert Chester
2:30 – Artistic bear on wall about to eat Chester
2:41 – The last chance to warn the world about Linkin Park falls on deaf ears
2:50 – Goodbye angel of bad metal
Dedicated to The Stick