Part One: It Doesn’t Even Matter How Hard You Try
Linkin Park’s debut album, Hybrid Theory, is the best selling rock album of the 21st century. Unless we all suddenly fall in love with CD players again, that’s not likely to change. According to Wikipedia, the album has sold an astronomical 27 million copies. 27 million! And somehow, in spite of all that success, I have been completely unable to find a copy of the album at a resale shop.
A few months ago, I decided to play a little game with myself. Because I’m cool and have a lot of friends, I was reading the Wikipedia page for Hybrid Theory, and saw the gigantic sales numbers. Seeing that, I figured that I would probably be able to find a copy of the album at Goodwill. If not Goodwill, definitely at a music store, right?
Wrong. Horribly, impossibly, dead wrong. It has been 3 months now, and the album remains elusive. Multiple Goodwills? No dice. Record stores in 4 different cities? Goose egg. In fact, I never found any Linkin Park albums for resale. The only album that I could find was 2017’s One More Light Live, which, if you’re so inclined, is still available at The Exclusive Company in Milwaukee.
Why did I start looking for the album now of all times? You’re probably shaking your head and asking “Dan, there’s a pandemic going on, don’t you have something better to do?” No I do not, thanks for asking. I’m kidding. There are much more important things that I should be doing, but I decided to not do them, and do this instead. Because I have my priorities straight. Editor’s note: he does not have his priorities straight.
The real reason I started looking for Hybrid Theory is because the album turns 20 this year, and to commemorate the occasion, the band announced an extremely extensive box set of the album and other goodies. Said goodies include the remix album Reanimation, demos, unreleased songs, and a mock demo cassette tape. All in all, the set has 80 songs on vinyl and CD, three DVDs, and a hefty art booklet. It’s a pretty extensive set, especially because it only covers material from Hybrid Theory, with nothing else from the band’s six other albums.
Part Two: What It Meant to Me Will Eventually Be a Memory
Linkin Park is, without a doubt, the most important band in my life. For basically the entirety of the past 14 years, they have been my favorite band. Of course, prior to 14 years ago, my favorite band was *NSYNC, which I will definitely write about later. When the box set was announced, it wasn’t even a question whether or not I would pick it up. What’s interesting about this, though, is that Hybrid Theory isn’t even my Linkin Park album.
Everybody has an album from their favorite artist that is their album. Of course, you didn’t make the album, the musician did, but it’s the album that you relate to the most. It’s the album that you could listen to anytime, any place, more so than any other album by that artist. Hybrid Theory came out far too early for it to be my Linkin Park album. That honor goes to their 2010 release, A Thousand Suns.
A Thousand Suns is a weird album. It’s not well loved by the more metal side of the Linkin Park fandom because of it’s relative softness, but it’s still far too hard and weird of an album to be a pop hit. A Thousand Suns is a concept album dealing with anxiety of nuclear war. From 2010. That wasn’t a very timely issue! It would have been way more relevant to write a concept album based around your fear of Swine Flu. In fact, A Thousand Suns was about as timely as an album about Swine Flu would be now. That is… not at all.
Twelve year old me didn’t care, though. I was all in. I downloaded the first single from that album, The Catalyst, immediately upon release. The next day, my family drove to Michigan and back, so for those 5 hours in the car, there was literally no other song that I listened to. It was my personal soundtrack to the book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman (upon further reflection, it’s really telling that that’s what I was reading at age twelve).
When the album came out, I forced my brother to go to Best Buy so I could get a physical copy of it. I ended up buying a copy that came with a T-shirt, simply because the cover art didn’t have the explicit label on it (don’t worry, it was still as naughty as ever). Then, it was time to listen. Boy oh boy, was it time to listen. For every day of at least the next year, I listened to that album. No matter what, that was my album. The albums themes of anxiety, anger, and existential dread, yet somehow optimism also, spoke to me then. I was apparently a very internally angry 12 year old.
How does my love of Linkin Park’s fourth album relate to a box set rerelease of their first album? Well, that leads us to…
Part Three: In The End, It Doesn’t Even Matter
Just as A Thousand Suns was my album, Hybrid Theory was the album for so many. Hybrid Theory, essentially, is an album about anxiety. Anxiety about Chester Bennington’s childhood. Anxiety about nothing mattering in life. Anxiety about addiction. Anxiety about your exterior facade breaking, revealing your scared, angry, confused self. It’s a dark album. But it’s an album that everyone can relate to.
This year is the tenth anniversary of A Thousand Suns. There won’t be any celebrations, or box sets, or rereleases for it. Honestly, there probably won’t be anything for its twentieth anniversary either. And that’s probably correct, because, despite how important it is to me, it’s not that important of an album as a whole. Hybrid Theory, on the other hand, is an incredibly important album. It’s the album that spoke to a generation. It gave them a way to express their anxieties, feel them in a communal way. Experience them with others, let them know their not alone.
Hybrid Theory is an album that continues to speak to a generation, as evidenced by the fact that I’m still unable to find a copy of it at a resale shop. It matters that much to people that their willing to keep it, twenty years later, even though they likely don’t even own a CD player. Either that, or they forgot that they even have a copy.
I went to The Exclusive Company today, twenty years after Hybrid Theory was originally released, to pick up the box set rerelease of the album. When I went to pay, the cashier said “Well, that didn’t last long.” He’s right, it didn’t. The set had been on their shelves for a little more than 5 hours. As I write this, I’m listening to the album for the hundredth time. But it isn’t tired. It isn’t worn out. It’s still as powerful, still as exciting as it was twenty years ago. At least, that’s what I assume (I was two years old upon the initial release).
It’s been three years since Chester Bennington, the lead vocalist of the band, lost his life. Since then, there has been no word on what the future of Linkin Park will be. It doesn’t look like there will be anything coming in the near future. No new albums, no concerts, nothing. That’s why this box set is special. If only for a little bit, it takes me back to the excitement of A Thousand Suns, just as I’m sure it takes other people back to the excitement of the first time they heard “In The End”.
I realize that this post is long, meandering, and doesn’t really have an overarching theme. What I’m trying to say is listen to the album. You don’t even need the box set, it’s streaming on Spotify. But if you can, I’d recommend picking up the box set. It is so choice.