Listening to Hybrid Theory today is just as exhilarating as it was in 2000. From the opening pulses of Papercut, few records strike at the heart of what it means to be cutting edge, the sound of a band determined to shake things up, pulling from influences as diverse as Depeche Mode and DJ Shadow. And while it’s always great to hear the pained wails of Crawling, the simply timeless In The End, and nu-metal aggro of One Step Closer, there’s still so much below the surface. The criminally underrated With You (with Chester’s cathartic, guttural ‘With youuuuuuuuuuuuu’), the joyous ‘Hoo-hah!’ in Forgotten, the electro-wizardry of Cure For The Itch… this is more than an album of four mega-singles.
Away from the record proper, we find ourselves in the midst of its kind-of sister album, Reanimation. Released two years after Hybrid Theory, the band invited some of their DJ and rapper mates to reinvent the record, with varying degrees of success. “They were all people that we really looked up to and wanted to collaborate with,” Joe Hahn told Kerrang! in this week’s Cover Story. Sadly, it isn’t a 100 per cent hit rate: some remixes miss the magic of Linkin Park completely, hacking their way through a capella vocals and riffs until they’re a useless mess. That said, the dubby bass of Frgt/10 with Charli 2na and Pharoahe Monch’s showing on H! Vltg3 elevate the record, while Deftones’ Steph Carpenter’s interpretation of By Myself (titled By_Myslf, naturally) adds even more heaviness and a refreshing, almost-Infected Mushroom beat. None of the songs, however, are an improvement on the originals.
But how did we get to the originals? Well, this is where the boxset comes into its own for Linkin Park completists. More than just curios and random unfinished tracks, this is Hybrid Theory’s journey from primordial ooze to the sound of the future (well, 2000).
The six-track 1999 Hybrid Theory EP lacks the finesse, catchiness and oomph that made the debut album so essential. It also feels much darker as a piece of work, but Mike Shinoda’s antagonistic Step Up notches up the bouncability with his bombastic ‘Who can rock a rhyme like this?’ vocal hook. Follow-up track And One offers a glimpse into just how good Chester and Mike would be together, and channels the inner angst that was so integral to Hybrid Theory connecting with a wider audience.