Linkin Park, 'Minutes to Midnight' (Warner Bros./ Machine Shop)

7
Minutes to Midnight
Critical Mass
Label: Warner Bros./ Machine Shop

by Mikael Wood

"I'm sick of being treated like I have before," Mike Shinoda announces in "Hands Held High," one of the few tracks on the new Linkin Park album that features the rapper/producer's rhymes. Laden with somber references to "bombs on the buses" and Mao's "Little Red Book," "Hands" is the multiplatinum outfit's big antiwar anthem. But Shinoda's line also seems to reflect the way he and his bandmates feel about their place in the music scene: Though they're heroes to a nation of Hot Topic tweens, Linkin Park are desperate for the sort of respect showered on brainy indie faves like Arcade Fire.

So on Minutes to Midnight, they give their sound a dramatic makeover with help from producer Rick Rubin, that bearded Pez dispenser of serious-artist cred. Per his rep, Rubin convinced the band to go organic: "Given Up" and "Bleed It Out" have ragged guitars, handclaps, and random background noise -- a deliberate move away from crafty, studio-sweetened hits like "Numb" and "One Step Closer." And in the more densely layered cuts -- such as "The Little Things Give You Away," on which singer Chester Bennington describes a scene of post-Katrina desolation -- the music privileges texture over catchiness. The arena-emo hooks are still there, of course, as lead single "What I've Done" proves. But this time they feel more like a means to an end.

Now Watch This: Linkin Park, "What I've Done"

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