Another one that originally appeared on Epinions, where it no longer exists in any form.
First, a little history: I tend to poke around on YouTube for AMVs from anime that use good music -- it's the combination that makes a successful AMV, and I've found some really good ones. One was done by a very talented young lady using Linkin Park's "Breaking the Habit" as the soundtrack. (The anime clips were from X, which itself looks very interesting.) I was quite taken by the song, and eventually laid hands on the CD. It took some getting used to -- "Breaking the Habit" is not typical of Linkin Park's style. I'm not particularly fond of screaming vocals, nor am I all that patient with rap. Why on earth was I listening to Linkin Park and liking it?
First off, I have my own approach to music: if it's an idiom new to me, I let myself soak in it until I start to understand where the artist is coming from. Consequently, I've learned a lot about many different kinds of music, most of which I enjoy. So I soaked.
If Depeche Mode is the Mahler of popular music, Linkin Park is the Wagner -- they have that kind of excess, that over-the-top, almost expressionistic flair that's one of the things I love about Wagner. And they make really interesting sounds. The music is very rich, textured, layered stuff with a lot of depth, and what I can only call an "emotional dynamic range" that's surprising in popular music. I think it's the combination of Mike Shinoda's rap with Chester Bennington's passionate singing -- and I use the word advisedly: Bennington is capable of much more than screaming, but he's always intense. Shinoda's rap folds into Bennington's singing beautifully -- Shinoda packs a wide enough range of expression into his delivery that I'm not sure you can really call it "rap" any more. Backed by a wall of sound from Rob Bourdon (drums), Brad Delson (guitars), Phoenix (bass), and the sampling by Joseph Hahn and Shinoda, it's a potent sound. A song like "Easier to Run" shows the range this group can pack into less than three-and-a-half minutes, the pathos overlaid by the urgency they somehow build into a long melodic line.
Which brings me to what really got to me: the lyrics. Sadly, there is an element of truth to the canards about pop song lyrics: most of them are pretty shallow. When I listened to the words in "Breaking the Habit," and then "Easier to Run," "Nobody's Listening," and "Numb," I was hooked. First, I think the message here is going to reach any teenager, and maybe even some a little older: it's about anger, it's about being lost and confused, it's about the frustration inherent of becoming an adult, about being seen as a child when you're not any more, all told from a surprisingly mature point of view. A line like "All I want to do/is be more like me/and be less like you" (from "Numb") makes you stop and think: there's the child's struggle for independence, right there. And growing up gay when and where I did, "Somewhere I Belong" and "Easier to Run," to name only two, were like seeing into my own head as a teenager. There are levels of meaning there that reflect a very sophisticated level of songwriting, and an emotional load that, even if not intentional, will not let you walk away from this music.
It’s not a perfect collection. The first half is uneven, with more valleys than peaks, but "Easier to Run" leads into a set of very strong numbers covering more than half the album, conceived and performed at a very high level: the best ones are stellar. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I can't get enough of this music.