You know what else sucked about Chester Bennington’s suicide? Having to write this. Look, I signed up to be a writer so I could share my two or three cents on the pop-culture elements that keep me company throughout my otherwise predictable routine. You know… happy stuff. To put a pin on a story like this, however, calls for effort from vulnerable recesses in you. That… I will never be ready for.
Nevertheless, a job is to be done, and there are talking points that need to be addressed, but I’m not going to do this on my own.
A quote of Frank Ocean’s comes to mind before I settle down with this piece and tell you anything else.
“When you’re happy, you enjoy the music, but when you’re sad, you understand the lyrics.”
It’s no wonder you find yourself tracing back lyrics belted and begged out by Chester Bennington, only to find presentiment and prophecy. In The End, Easier To Run, Numb, Leave Out All The Rest all are now a little tougher to sing or daze off to. I’m sure Linkin Park’s latest album too has foreshadowing of Chester’s death, but I’m starting to think all of this now was part of a deal I’d signed for as a kid to want to become a fan of Linkin Park.
Yes, to want to become a fan; every other kid in school was. Static-infused tracks downloaded off Kazaa were being bounced around the class that reeked of everyday prepubescent frustrations, and there’d just be that one prick who owned the physical CD and enjoyed its pristine quality off a discman. I was that prick.
I shared the tale of how I got to own my first record on my Facebook – one that involved saving cents where I could, and asking random strangers of age to get me a copy of Meteora while I lingered outside HMV. I didn’t intend to flaunt how I got the record, but I wanted to share why I did.
Meteora was the first time I held an album – in a glossy paperback preparation, no less. It was the first time I’d experienced seamless track-to-track progression – where the end of a track was the start to the next. It was the first time I did something for music instead – after years of hand-holding through headphones, I had to return the favour.
“… Chester isn’t even that brilliant a singer, but he never tried to be.”
It’s almost as if Linkin Park and I grew up together. Hybrid Theory, Meteora, and indeed that Collision Course collaboration with Jay Z all came to me at a pivotal point of my growing up. I’ve mentioned in articles before of how school and I just never got along, so I must be forever grateful for the company that was on offer for a frustrated pre-teen whose life ambition then was just to make it through the day.
And as I grew older, so did the band. As my music tastes meandered, the band’s production did too. I didn’t forsake them, I… forgot about them. I heard New Divide in a Transformers’ soundtrack, and didn’t bother to do much else about and for them.
And now? I listen to Crawling, and I can’t help but feel that… Chester isn’t even that brilliant a singer, but he never tried to be. Bellowing at the chorus four times, with more life depending on each than the last, I see that all that he, and indeed us, wanted to do, was to make it through the day. I now understand the lyrics.
We all have that one embarrassing story about our adolescent obsession with Linkin Park that has now become the perfect conversation starter. We all felt that hole in our heart as we woke up on July 21st to the news. Seeing an institution of our youth fall made the world feel a little… scarier.
Linkin Park represented the rebellious mouthpiece of a generation, stemming from the revolutionary Hybrid Theory. The hauntingly eloquent Papercut was such a jarring juxtaposition from the plethora of boybands that we had to sit up and take notice. Live renditions of Crawling still send shivers down one’s spine, even ten years on. Listening back on these tracks makes you realise how little has changed. Crawling doesn’t feel like a nostalgic trip, but an effervescent tale of disenchantment.
For me, Points of Authority was the quintessential track. The way Chester’s clean vocals in the chorus is like standing atop a cliff, waiting for the glass-cut vocals to drop and inspire you to jump off the edge. Coupled with Shinoda’s cadence and the formulaic cacophony, Points of Authority absorbs you into an alternate world where it’s okay to be less than what society wants you to be. A track like Points of Authority is not a one-off, but highlights Linkin Park’s underlying appeal. For that for minutes that you’re absorbed into a song, reality lies suspended as you escape. And if that isn’t what music is all about, then what is?
“…it’s mortifying that we begin caring only after an unanswered cry for help.”
I have to admit; I became disillusioned with Linkin Park after Minutes to Midnight in 2007. I was one of those who thought A Thousand Suns felt like a project that did not reflect who Linkin Park was. The direction was, in my opinion, too manufactured and polished, distancing itself from the hallmarked raw emotes. To me, they lost their soul.
Truth is, I didn’t give them a chance. My dislike for Iridescent wasn’t because they betrayed their identity, but because they matured their grievances before I wanted to grow up. Replacing the rough vocals for clean licks wasn’t a betrayal who they were, but an evolution aligned to the needs of the new generation of adolescents searching for a mouthpiece to air their struggles.
Trace a line from Hybrid Theory to One More Light, and it represents a sine curve; it ebbs and flows in terms of delivery and presentation, but the underlying message returns to the same median; they continued to suspend reality.
It’s a shame that a tragedy inspires fools like myself to look back and give them a chance. It’s mortifying that we begin caring only after an unanswered cry for help. It’s true what they say, you never fully appreciate someone until they’re gone.
Many of us will yearn for a proper goodbye, but maybe it’s time to let the gentle beast lie.