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Sonic Highways: Paramore, Linkin Park, and Changes in Sound

There was a time my bedroom walls resembled the Jurassic coast, years of posters torn from issues of Kerrang! and Metal Hammer compacted into a fossil crust. No doubt Paramore and Linkin Park were two of the first bands up there, and I’m sure a lot of you can relate. A little poster archaeology, however, would show that neither band now look anything like their early 2000s incarnations, nor do they sound like them.

Since 2010’s A Thousand Sons, Linkin Park have flirted with ambient and electronic sounds, but have often professed to regret this direction. 2014’s The Hunting Party was accompanied by all manner of talk about their roots in nu-metal and the state of rock music, tracks like ‘War’ and ‘Guilty All The Same’ drawing from punk and hardcore. Paramore are no strangers to reinvention either, and 2010 left Hayley Williams the band’s only remaining founding member. Taylor York’s influence on their subsequent self-titled left it thick with grooves and some of the most dazzling, capacious pop of the last decade, but many fans pined for a return of those harsher, distorted guitar tones.

A little poster archaeology would show that neither band now look anything like their early 2000s incarnations, nor do they sound like them

Both bands dropped new records in May of this year and neither is likely to quiet those upset about these changes. Paramore’s colourful palette of influences on After Laughter includes The Cure, Talking Heads, and The Growlers, and offers up a similar seventies flavour to The Growler’s recent City Club. First single ‘Hard Times’ is all jangly guitar and slinking synths, the marimba which opens the track returning to twinkle behind Hayley’s phenomenal vocals. The record is strewn with undeniable hooks and arena-sized choruses, bangers like ‘Rose-Colored Boy’ and ‘Idle Worship’ showing the band to be masters of their craft. Whilst many fans might have not yet recovered from the loss of Josh Farro’s riffs, it’s difficult to not be won over by After Laughter’s massive heart. I find it tiresome to put up with these mourners and whiners when Paramore continue to put out such well-crafted, energetic music. Perhaps its time for them to stop holding the band hostage and embrace the fact that they’re thriving where they are now, that stagnancy kills bands dead, and we should celebrate that Paramore are still so alive.

…in this effort to find new direction or, perhaps, to trace a new movement in music, Linkin Park seem inauthentic, and One More Light sounds profoundly hollow

Linkin Park’s One More Light sees the band reconcile themselves with their more EDM-infused offerings and reject all the talk of returning to a grittier sound that surrounded The Hunting Party. I don’t mean to join those who equate audible guitars with quality, but the energy that was present on this previous record seems to have dissipated completely. ‘Nobody Can Save Me’ and ‘Talking To Myself’ are perhaps two of the dampest vocal performances of Chester’s career, both tracks reminiscent of Hillsong and the worst contemporary worship music has to offer. This lack of heart is felt again and again throughout the rest of the record, Shinoda and Stormzy’s verses on ‘Good Goodbye’ the only life in what is otherwise 35 minutes of dead sound. Stormzy may well “have a tune with Linkin Park,” but this is not the same band that produced the undeniable Hybrid Theory or exploded onstage alongside Jay-Z, nor should it be; however, I believe this apathetic offering has far more to do with their commercial worries than any artistic development. ‘Heavy’ feels like the band’s answer to Twenty One Pilots, while the record as a whole follows The Chainsmokers’ minimalistic EDM sound. But in this effort to find new direction or, perhaps, to trace a new movement in music, Linkin Park seem inauthentic, and One More Light sounds profoundly hollow.

Sounds change wildly over a band’s career, and that’s wonderful. Efforts like After Laughter should be celebrated for their heart and for the craft behind them. As fans, we need to learn to loosen our grip on artists that we feel we’re somehow entitled to, and accept that a band’s creative journey might well take them far from our own tastes; however, we should never let our respect for this journey protect insipid and contrived records like One More Light from the condemnation they so deserve.

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Comments (2)

  • As foretold by Mike and Chester, they like to experiment with their sound. It’s okay, it’s good. What the left the fans startled is that they settled for pop and mainstream sounding music. They are meant to be legitimate “Linkin Park”, not like Chainsmokers or Twenty One Pilots. Hope they learn from their mistakes.

  • Josh Hatcher

    See you agree with the gist of my piece, but I’d be curious how you square this idea of a “legitimate Linkin Park” with their experimentation. Surely if bands are free to experiment and redefine their sound, then it’s impossible for them to move outside the boundaries of legitimacy? Anything Linkin Park produce can be said to be “legitimate Linkin Park,” regardless of quality.

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