Over the last 15 years, Pictureboard has acquired mythological status. Fans knew it had been played live in Linkin Park’s early days, but there was no recording. Now, it turns out that part of it had been under their noses since 2001, in the form of footage from a rare live interlude they’d dubbed ‘In Yourself’ or ‘Be Yourself’.
So, is it worth the wait? If it’s another chance to hear Chester Bennington, the answer is always yes.
Written while they were still called Xero, Pictureboard opens with simple guitar chords, string samples and a crackling record sound, before a beat comes in. It’s got a similar vibe to She Couldn’t, LP’s recently released, newly mastered version of another demo, as well as turn-of-the-millennium bands such as Incubus. But it evolves into a song that’s much more like the Hybrid Theory template, bringing guitars into the chorus: ‘And I will walk away,’ sings Chester. You won’t find any screaming here, though – he sounds angelic, and even the guitar tone is warm.
Where the intensity ramps up is with Mike’s vocals, which are much more prominent than those on She Couldn’t. At the 1.30 mark, he starts rapping, ‘Night in the corner at the back of the hall, where we sit all alone and listen to the rainfall,’ repeating it over and over with increasing urgency before breaking into a new rap, with a similar cadence to Hybrid Theory’s A Place For My Head (the demo for which was recorded around the same time as this). By the end, he’s super fired up, and even Chester’s ‘I will walk away’ backing refrain is stronger. With a push into proper screaming and some extra polish, this could easily have sat on the album.
Lyrically, there’s a vague message of leaving someone behind and staying true to yourself. The most vulnerable moment comes two minutes in, when a raw, more poppy version of Chester whispers: ‘I… will be myself.’
Pictureboard still sounds like a demo, lacking the production values of a ‘finished’ song, but it serves strong 2000s nostalgia, giving you a glimpse into their developing dynamic and the magic that made Hybrid Theory so special. Even towards the end of the track, the scratching brings to mind the legendary ‘I’d like to introduce Mr Hahn’ section from Cure For The Itch.
You can’t help thinking of them rehearsing, learning how to be a band, about to break records with one of the biggest and best debut albums ever. And if you were around at the time, it’ll give you a strong, emotional jolt back to one of the most life-changing periods in heavy music’s history – and probably your own.
Pictureboard is on Hybrid Theory: 20th Anniversary Edition, out October 9 via Warner Records