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Linkin Park has repackaged its 'Hybrid Theory' via remixes.

In the End

Ignorance is never bliss, especially when it comes to Linkin Park

By Gina Arnold

THE OTHER NIGHT, I arranged to see Austin Powers in Goldmember with a friend, and she showed up at my door with a musician pal, who immediately informed me that he'd never even heard of Austin Powers. "I don't really pay attention to the mainstream," he said smugly. "Plus, I don't have a TV."

This is a truly irritating statement. First of all, knowledge of Austin Powers' existence is not confined to television viewers. His grinning face adorns the side of every bus in the Bay Area, among other places. Also, if it were truly the case that this guy didn't pay attention to the mainstream, how did he even know that Austin Powers is part of it? For all he knew, the reason that he'd never heard of him is because Mr. Powers is so obscure.

Austin Powers in Goldmember was the No. 1 movie in the country, but the guy was off base, because it is not exactly mainstream. It's not clichéd or violent or run-of-the-mill. The film doesn't take place in a world where everyone is annoyingly perfect, and its humor is visual, ironic, whimsical and sometimes even subtle. It belongs to a very tiny school of pop-culture icons--like The Simpsons and Beavis and Butt-head--which are both highly critical of the mass mind-set and superpopular. Inevitably, the smug musician left the theater weak with laughter, just like the rest of us.

The whole experience ought to have taught him a lesson about feigning ignorance. After all, there's a certain type of person who deeply believes that rejecting the superculture makes you smarter or less tainted--or more moral or something like that--and he was definitely one of them. The impulse is entirely understandable, and yet it's also misguided, because it involves willfully evoking ignorance--and ignorance is wrong, even if what you're ignoring is Britney Spears or, in my case, Linkin Park.

Linkin Park epitomizes everything this guy is attempting to shut out of his life. The young and calculating L.A.-based act had the bestselling album of 2001: Hybrid Theory. Sales of 11 million weren't enough for these jokers, however: At the end of July, Linkin Park released Reanimation, which is a remix album of all the same tunes on Hybrid Theory, and it debuted at No. 2 on the charts, right after Bruce Springsteen's latest.

"Stalling tactic" doesn't even begin to describe what's going on with this industry-savvy band. These remixes--some of which feature rappers and DJs like Rasco, Amp Live, Chali 2na, Black Thought and Kutmasta Kurt, as well as rockers Korn's Jonathon Davis, Staind's Aaron Lewis, Orgy's Jay Gordon--are an attempt to update Linkin Park's own sound in order to squeeze every ounce of use (read: sales) out of songs they've already crafted. The spin is that this move is experimental and cutting-edge. Another way of putting it would be "opportunistic."

On the plus side, the members of Linkin Park certainly aren't being exploited by the industry--they're exploiting it for all it's worth. But to me, their music represents the worst about the mainstream, particularly it's tendency to embrace music that's derivative of recent, better, acts--in this case, the rap-metal of Rage Against the Machine, Korn and maybe even Faith No More. "It's not who comes first," David Bowie once said, "it's who comes second." Or in this case, third or fourth.

The most telling comment I've read about Linkin Park is that its lead singer, Chester Bennington, worships the Stone Temple Pilots. Now, see, if Linkin Park were truly indicative of what the mainstream is always like, I too might be a person who shunned it, like the guy I went to the flicks with. But the thing is, there's always a movie like Austin Powers in Goldmember to make things even, a funny and cleareyed commentary on pop culture that makes one happy to be a part of the mainstream. Listening to Linkin Park made me a little more sympathetic to the Austin Powers-hater's point of view, but it also pointed out his folly. Knowing the enemy is important, especially in these wicked times. That's why when it comes to pop culture, ignorance is never bliss.

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From the August 22-28, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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