Cast your mind back to the death throes of the twentieth century. Tamagotchis were driving us wild with their incessant neediness, MSN Messenger was just beginning its time sap odyssey and the millennium bug had us all donning tin foil hats in preparation for Armageddon. Dark times, indeed. All the while, the world was basking in a new musical phenomenon being thrust unceremoniously into the mainstream – nu-metal. Where once simple messages of love and sentimentality had existed, now new bands with unfathomable names like Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach were feeding us a far more disillusioned and angsty agenda. At the peak of this movement came Linkin Park and their debut album Hybrid Theory – still one of the most commercially successful debuts of all time. Now, after 3 years away, the band are returning with One More Light, their seventh studio album.
Of the bands that emerged in that period, Linkin Park were notable for being one of the few with a very distinct style – a stick that some naïvely used to beat them with. Lead singer Chester Bennington's versatile melodies and rapper Mike Shinoda's sporadic flow interjections set them up as a form of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau dynamic – strange but exquisite musical bedfellows. Layer that over the innovative DJ work done by Joe Hahn and a plethora of screechingly memorable guitar riffs and you had a band built on precision synergy to stand the test of time... or so you might have thought.
One More Light feels less The Odd Couple and more 'the couple who are going through a really messy divorce process, constantly working at cross-purposes and dragging everyone around them into their whirlwind of disharmony'. The album has been split up almost methodically based on the pair's involvement and the themes that they are choosing to cover are so wildly different that parts of the album appear comical as a result.
Chester's driving force is one of catharsis – fighting demons that have haunted him from his days of addiction with a particular focus on taking responsibility for his problems. He approaches this through a series of songs that, relatively catchy hooks aside, fail to ever get going. Contemplative, sickeningly-synthesised opening track Nobody Can Save Me is a long way from the punchy powerhouse Papercut that opened Hybrid Theory. Talking To Myself sounds like the slightly rough patch that Maroon 5 went through. Lead single Heavy featuring Kiiara feels like a good idea in principle that never should have seen the light of day. In fact, Chester's highlight reel doesn't kick in until the last two tracks on the album. Title track One More Light has a bit of a musical theatre vibe but is probably the most lyrically inventive track on the record. Closing track Sharp Edges makes up in wry wordplay what it lacks in musical reach.
Unfortunately, Chester has two more highlights than Mike manages. Having clung on to two tracks in the break-up settlement, Shinoda proceeds to make a pig's ear of both of them. Both Invisible and Sorry For Now plod excruciatingly through their near-identical subject matter – I might balls it up sometimes as a parent but just remember I'm trying my best. Not, in itself, a hideous sentiment but when it's used as the interval to Chester's drug confessionals, it does somewhat leave you with the feeling that you've just watched ten minutes of The Brady Bunch shoved in the middle of an episode of Breaking Bad.
None of this front-man disconnect would be quite as horrendous if the one song where they actually do collaborate completely wasn't so good. The absolute masterstroke of Linkin Park's career to date was their collaboration with Jay-Z on 2004's Collision Course (is anyone else thinking that Chester Bennington might be 'Benny With The Good Hair'? No, just me?) and Good Goodbye recaptures everything that was good about that hook-up. Lapsing into a far more classic Linkin Park sound (minus the contribution from The Chipmunks), the band bring in Pusha T and exceptional British rapper Stormzy for a track that is an agonizing glimpse of what One More Light could have been.
I won't give up hope on Linkin Park. Hybrid Theory was such an important part of my teenage years and I still think the raw ingredients are there to reclaim former glories. The most pressing concern is getting everyone back on the same page because One More Light feels like an album cobbled together by a group of individuals who have never met before. Perhaps someone at the record label should consider getting Linkin Park on a team-building outward bound weekend in the Cotswolds to improve togetherness and morale. It certainly couldn't hurt.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Week
“Who cares if one more light goes out?//In a sky of a million stars”
One More Light
Once Jack and Walter,
Chester and Mike are no more
Now strangers jamming
As always, please feel free to write your own review using the comments section below. The more the merrier. Please do take note of our contribution guidelines. Looking forward to hearing what you thought.