Linkin Park: Hybrid Theory
Format: CD, Vinyl, Streaming, Digital Download
Release Date: October 24th, 2000 (re-release October 9th, 2020)
Genre: Hard Rock
Album Number: 1
Intro: Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory turns 20 this year (2020) and as a special review, I am going to talk about the album that started it all; the album that began my love for Linkin Park. I don’t normally write the music reviews, so this may not be as good as Keith’s, but I wanted to do it in honor of the anniversary and because Linkin Park is my favorite band.
The Album: Hybrid Theory is Linkin Park’s 1st studio album, named after the original name for the band before they chose to go by Linkin Park. I was introduced to it back when they first came out and immediately I fell in love with their rock-based music. It reflected well my late teenage angst at the time and also was one of the first bands I liked that steered away from pop or alternative. I openly admit that even after all these years I had not fully grasped the intended meaning behind every song, but I attached my own meaning to them, a meaning that resonates within me. I do not intend to share intimate details of my thoughts and emotions but I will definitely share why the songs were important to me. While since Hybrid Theory’s release, Linkin Park has made numerous studio albums, each of them evolving into something different from the previous, I will always fondly remember Hybrid Theory as my change in musical taste in my late teen years.
1. Papercut– This was my very first Linkin Park song, sent to me by MP3 on AIM! This is the one that got me hooked. To me, this song is about that little voice (or face as they call it) inside of you that is constantly watching and judging you for the things you think or do, and so you feel a sense of paranoia like you are always being watched. It holds a special place in my heart as my first song from them, but it is also a really angsty fun song.
2. One Step Closer– This song speaks to me as one about someone or people pushing your buttons until you are about to snap. The stresses of life and the hurtful things people say, or the problems that come up, or really anything that makes life difficult is just pushing you literally one step closer to the edge of breaking and either having an actual breakdown or going off on someone. Chester’s angry shouts of ‘shut up’ in the last part of the song very much expresses that sense of frustration when people just need to shut up and listen to you, but also when all of those stressors are constantly nagging at you and you want them to shut up, or go away. I love this song because I have a short temper sometimes and just feel like shouting to get everything around me to chill out.
3. With You– I think this is a song about losing someone, or not being around someone important to you. It plays on the idea of someone saying that no matter what, your spirit is with them, whether it’s a relationship or not. The lyrics about how he can’t wait to see tomorrow makes me think of that longing you have when you know you will get to see someone soon, but not right now.
4. Points Of Authority – I am getting that here they are talking about an emotionally abusive relationship. That they are saying someone loves them but at the same time enjoys having control over them, or authority over them as the song is so aptly named. It also gives me a sense that the person makes them feel shame and self-doubt about themselves.
5. Crawling- This song really holds a lot of meaning for me from when I was younger. It speaks of things crawling under your skin, and those things are thoughts of confusion, self-doubt, and self-hate (wounds that will not heal) and powerlessness to stop being self-destructive. The music video shows a girl who looks to have been beaten but by the end feels a sense of empowerment or relief, but to me the words do not reflect that same message entirely, but instead focus solely on losing yourself and needing to figure yourself out instead of hurting yourself.
6. Runaway– Listening to this song makes me think that I need to escape from something bad. A negative relationship from a friend or significant other. Perhaps that person was a liar and all our protagonist wants to do is run away from them, even if they want to know the truth and stop the lies, they just want to get away from them.
7. By Myself – This particular song hits home for me because it talks about not being confident in your ability to be on your own. It’s something I have struggled with quite a bit throughout life. Outright they mention thoughts of failure, and that ‘I can’t rely on myself’. They then go on to list the reasons for these doubts, and how they keep giving thoughts of utter failure, making it hard to keep going through life.
8. In the End– This very obviously deals with the futility of doing things in life. No matter how hard you try, what good is it when at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you failed or succeeded. There is also a really awesome mellow verse by Chester talking about putting trust in someone and doing your best but it still feeling pointless. This is easily one of my favorite songs off of the entire album. It encompasses a lot of emotions and showcases Mike’s raps and Chester’s softer singing alongside his usual heavier sound.
9. A Place For My Head – While it is not in my top five songs from Linkin Park, I very much can appreciate the message this song encompasses. It’s about the desire for some rest in your head, like a moment of relief from the constant trials of life. Life being the rollercoaster of good things given to us and then the bad things that come as a consequence (You do favors for me… start asking about things you want back). It gets to be a lot on your mind (the enemy) and all you need is a chance to rest your head (another place, a place for my head) and get a grip on your thoughts.
10. Forgotten– I could be totally wrong with this one, but it makes me think of again losing yourself in your mind (the darkness holding me tightly). It also mentions the concept of seeing a light in the darkness to try and hold onto (a small spot of light floods the floor). My favorite part of the song is the “In my memory you’ll find me…” verses. It has a slightly softer sound but the concept of not fulling losing yourself since you can still remember who you are deep down is what I really like.
11. Cure For The Itch– This is probably my least favorite track on the album, mainly because it is purely a instrumental track with a lot of riffs and DJ style spins. I don’t know how to describe it, but it is a major difference from the rest of the album, almost like an extended interlude.
12. Pushing Me Away– Another favorite of mine, this song makes me think about someone who is lying to the outside world by faking being happy just to be with someone when deep down they aren’t. Everyone eventually has their breaking point, even people who lie to the world with that fake smile. It’s like someone who doesn’t want to show that they have vulnerabilities, and that they do everything to make others happy, including never showing their true feelings and always accepting blame when it isn’t theirs. Ultimately all of this pushes you away from other people, even though the song makes it sound like they are the one being pushed away. I love hearing some of the softer verses from Chester and I really like the message.
13. High Voltage (Live)– I first heard this song as a studio track, but this live version has a really cool almost etheric echo of “high voltage” during the chorus that is otherwise sang normally in the original. I like the fact that we can’t hear the audience at all even when Mike calls for them to chime in until the very end. and it doesn’t feel like a live track. I kind of take from this song a declaration of their position as artists, that they are under a lot of pressure bringing their message to the world.
14. My December– One of my top songs from this album, it again feature heavily Chester’s softer singing. Even Mike has some softer singing as well. It feels like a song about regret, but also about being willing to give up everything you have just to be with someone and feel happiness. It’s a sad sounding song, reinforced by the fact that December and snow is often linked to mellow feelings.
15. Points Of Authority (Crystal Method Remix)– This is a really funky remix that makes me think they were going for making an attempt at a club song. It has some neat sounds to it but it isn’t as good as the original.
16. Papercut (Live at Milton Keys)– This one sounds almost identical to the studio version except it of course has some of the crowd at the beginning and a bit less of the electronic instrumentals. Not a bad live track but it does not seem to hold the same experience of uniqueness that High Voltage Live does.
Cover Art and Limited Edition: The artwork for Hybrid Theory reminds me of graffiti style art, the main figure having a spray-painted look to it and the text a modified version of stenciled lettering. The booklet and CD art itself continues the graffiti and grunge style that has grown to be one of my favorite design styles over the years. Pictures of the band members are littered through the booklet and a group picture on the back. In celebration of the anniversary, Linkin Park is releasing a limited edition box set that costs way more money than I can afford, including remastered tracks and an insane amount of unreleased songs. It also includes Reanimation, their second album that remixes each track one by one. It even has vinyls of the albums and cassettes, and several pieces of artwork including a poster of the late Chester Bennington and a book. It can be pre-ordered on their site as of this writing for $200.00.
Overall Rating: Realistically, this album would probably be a 3 or 4 out of 5. It is not their absolute best work, however it is the album that started it all, and it has some really great tracks, even if by today’s standards they may seem dated. You have to remember, this came out in 2000, and they have evolved a lot since then so it has a markedly different feel from their more recent work. I still get chills listening to some of them, and the feelings drummed up by the music is a total roller-coaster for me but it will forever be in my top selection of album