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My #RSD13: Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory

With their debut album, Hybrid Theory, re-released for this year’s Record Store Day, Liz Ward took a look at the pre-adolescent musical zeitgeist formed by Linkin Park at the start of the 21st century. Here, she details how though the band and herself have taken greatly differing musical trajectories in recent years, they’ll always hold a special place in her heart.

The year is 2000 and I’m eight years old. An eight-year-old child with five guitar-wielding, tattoo-sporting heroes: Linkin Park. While my contemporaries were avid fans of Spice Girls, Blue and S Club 7, I would spend my weekends screaming into the mirror re-enacting classics such as ‘Papercut’ and ‘In the End’. Hybrid Theory, was a record that changed my young, impressionable view on life, and probably the lives of many around me, too.  Now, on the 20th of April, it’s being granted a re-release, in honour of Record Store Day – now in its sixth year of celebrations; a day in which we recognise our resilient record stores, those last bastions of true music appreciation. Dubplate dungeons nationwide will be brimming with both new releases and tantalising reissues and I am very happy to say that Hybrid Theory will be amongst them.

Hybrid Theory was Linkin Park’s debut album and it was a huge success. Selling over 10 million units in the US alone, it was a seminal record that began to immerse the polarised worlds of rock and hip-hop. It was a unique mesh of choruses led by spiky-haired, facially-pierced, scream-king Chester Bennington and verses bountiful in Mike Shinoda’s characteristic rapping. Similarly, great contrasts were cultivated by enigmatic DJ ‘Mr. Hahn’ between shredded distorted guitars and live-mixed samples.

It was a record that broke down boundaries; presenting the world with a new genre in the form of rap metal. Simultaneously seminal, powerful and affecting, the lyrical content of the album touched upon the trials and tribulations of Bennington’s teenage life – depression, drug experimentation and violence. In doing so it provided an outlet for teens all over the world to cathartically expel their inner-demons and insecurities by simply pressing play on their Walkman, living vicariously through those five angry young men. As such, they became my heroes – I had a Linkin Park hoody, poster, even a calendar (to my delight Bennington was Mr. March – my birthday month).

Hybrid Theory provided a voice for the silent; an outlet for the trapped and, as such, it seems perfect that it is being recognised by Record Store Day – a day that celebrates the independence that music evokes. Having such an important record honoured, and brought to a new generation, is inspired. The idea that a new wave of 8 year-olds are poised to tread through the corridors of Hybrid Theory is exciting (and maybe a bit scary for the parents involved!).

As the years progressed so did my music tastes, and after Meteora – a brilliantly executed second album – was released in 2003, my love affair with Linkin Park ended abruptly. I began to sink into the world of hip-hop, craving the musicality and playfulness of artists like Mos Def and J Dilla after spending my formative years thrashing my brain with the Linkin lot. Similarly, Linkin Park began to mellow out a little in their later years – Minutes to Midnight, released in 2007, was radio-ready and parent-pleasing, it contented me to see my boys become so successful, but they no longer satisfied my inner hell-raiser.

Those emotions that I learnt to feel and harness (at the wee age of 8), whilst listening to Hybrid Theory, have stayed with me forever. When I began to hit my teens and doused myself in dubstep, the intensity I felt during a Skream and Benga set evoked memories of the build-up in tracks such as ‘Place for My Head’. Similarly songs like ‘By Myself’ prepared me for age 17 when I threw my body around in an unnecessarily violently manner to tracks like ‘Hard’ by Breakage. Hybrid Theory allowed me to appreciate difficult music. For an eight-year-old, rap metal wasn’t exactly ‘accessible’. It wasn’t easy for me to initially process, but something about it was intriguing, addictive almost. It pulled me out my comfort zone of Aqua and Steps, and thrust me convincingly into the dark side – and I’ve not looked back since.

Now it’s 2013 and my days of screaming into the mirror are thankfully behind me. These days you’re more likely to find me talking techno than teen angst. And Linkin Park themselves aren’t as cutting edge as they once were. Living Things, released in 2012, which you can probably still find in an ill-fated HMV bargain bin, was a bit odd – like Skrillex, but made by middle aged Dads. They’re still around, a bit; they still play live, a bit; Chester Bennington still screams, a bit. That doesn’t matter, though. What matters is what they began as, what they set out as, and what they gave to many music lovers of my age in their formative years. So, for this reason, on the 20th of April 2013, have a little listen to Hybrid Theory and let that independent, angry eight-year-old have one last scream in the mirror. I know I will.

- Liz Ward



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