Partly Cloudy Future
On A Thousand Suns, Linkin Park’s fourth full-length album, Chester Bennington, Mike Shinoda, and company set out to explore the experimental and electronic sides of their music against the backdrop of an optimistic concept album. Picking up where they left off on 2007’s Minutes to Midnight, Linkin Park continue to shed, nay, abandon the nu-metal and rap sounds that defined them in their smash debut. The results are mixed, if not a little laborious, demanding some commitment from the listener.
The first two tracks serve as overture to the rest of the album, introducing the notion that much of the album’s production was done after the instruments were all packed away. Even track three—the first full song, “The Radiance”—makes you wonder if the right band’s CD was slipped into the case, sounding more like OneRepublic than Linkin Park. It’s actually a relief when Shinoda finally busts some rhymes on “When They Come for Me,” an expletive-laced stomper.
The fourth proper song (track eight!), “Waiting for the End,” tempts the listener to echo that sentiment about the album, but fortunately it’s a standout tune with a catchy, moody, reggae tinge. It leads into more familiar territory as Bennington’s trademark screams come along in “Blackout.” By the time we reach “Wretches and Kings,” the album finally feels like Linkin Park.
The preachiest moments here are the catchiest, including chanting of such convocations as “let it go” or “lift me up” as the LP winds to a close. “The Messenger,” in fact, features Bennington’s most impassioned singing to date. Accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, it’s worth the wait and a sonic relief from the electronica on the rest of the album.
Yet the many interludes, including a manipulated speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, are skippable, and the album’s not strong enough to warrant not skipping these numbers. A Thousand Suns is a concept album with a revolutionary theme: Don’t hate each other, please. In our download-and-shuffle era, though, the overall message may be missed.