The brilliant Rob Harvilla once said that all album reviews should include a count of the number of days that passed between when the reviewer listened to the album for the purpose of writing the review and when he or she returned to the album again for pleasure. I listened to Linkin Park’s most recent album (The Hunting Party) tonight for the first time since it was released six weeks ago, on June 17th. If that sounds like something that someone who didn’t particularly care for the album might do, it’s because yeah, I didn’t particularly care for the the album. (There, I said it #1.)
The band said they wanted to write songs that were like the songs that inspired them when they were teenagers dreaming about becoming rock stars. Which, okay, that’s a noble enough objective. But some of the songs sound to me a little too much like the songs that likely inspired them when they were teenagers. Chester’s one-register-too-low vocals and Mike’s and Chester’s vocal harmonies on “Rebellion” sound like 1990 to me. To be clear, I’m not talking about an early ’90s vibe updated for 2014. I’m talking, the song sounds dated. And I’m pretty sure some other band already made “Mark the Graves”. Everything about that song is so familiar to me. Again, not good familiar. Familiar like, I heard this song in 1994, and I didn’t like it then either.
And it’s not just the songs. I hate the album’s production. (There, I said it #2.) Rob’s drums often sound like he’s beating a wet cardboard box, and while I imagine the band was going for “raw”, Chester’s vocals instead just sound overused and tired to me. It probably wasn’t the worst idea in the world to lose Rick Rubin, but it probably wasn’t the greatest idea in the world to go it alone.
Also: I don’t like the album’s artwork. (There, I said it #3). This, however, is hardly surprising. I never like Linkin Park’s artwork, nor their general artistic inclinations. I find their videos weird, and their merch is horrendous. And what the hell is up with this fashion aesthetic where they all dress for photo shoots like peasants from the Middle Ages during the slightly chilly months of Fall? I can only imagine the conversations: “No, I think you need more layers.” “No, I think that coat could use more buttons.” “How about this far too long, kind of ragged looking scarf? I think that would really round out your outfit nicely.” “No, the collar’s not too big at all. In fact, why don’t you pop it up to make it even more pronounced?!” It’s awful.
But back to the music … Holey moley I hated their setlist for the European festivals. (There, I said it #4.) It reminded me of Saturday nights in the 1980s when all the Top 40 radio stations would play terrible extended dance mixes of current songs. This was in the days before CDs and satellite radio, so I guess the idea was that people would play these things at parties because making a mixtape was too much of a pain the ass? I really don’t know. I just remember wanting to hear each song and hating when songs ended before the part I liked best. I’ve got tickets to five Carnivores Tour shows. Two of them will require air travel. My interest in those shows was already diminishing courtesy of the facts that my job is trying to kill me and that I’ve met somebody who makes me not want to do things alone so much anymore. If that festival setlist rears its ugly head during the Carnivores Tour, the final nails might be in the coffin.
I mean, I don’t know, perhaps all of this is part of a larger shift for me. I’d begun to suspect even before the band released this album that Chester joining Stone Temple Pilots was the worst thing that ever happened to my relationship with Linkin Park. I love Chester in Stone Temple Pilots. I saw the band four times during their Fall 2013 tour, and I’m to the point where I’m more far excited for a new Stone Temple Pilots album and tour than I am for a new Linkin Park tour. (There, I said it. #5.) It was so nice to hear Chester sing. I love that he can scream, but I prefer when he uses that capability sparingly. (Generally, I believe STP with Chester is different from STP with Scott. The only time I’d say STP with Chester is better than STP with Scott is on Sex and Violence. Chester’s screams between the verses and choruses of that song and at the very end are so intense and perfect. They punctuate the song perfectly.) The nonstop screamfest that is The Hunting Party, on the other hand, gets old quick.
Now all of this being said, it’s not all terrible news for me and The Hunting Party. I love “The Final Masquerade”, and I can get down with “A Line in the Sand”, “Wastelands”, “Until It’s Gone”, and even “Guilty All the Same”. The band seems happy and inspired, so hopefully that bodes well for them as individuals, as a band, and as live performers. I’m still very much looking forward to the shows I’m seeing in August, but yeah, I don’t like this turn we’ve taken. Hope it’s just a detour before we get back on the highway again!