Album Review: Linkin Park ‘Living Things’
Linkin Park have been making subtle adjustments to their formula from day one, evolving noticeably over time without ever leaving behind their radio-friendly rap/rock roots. Living Things is an album that is hyped to include all of the lessons they have learned along the way, while bringing back the energy of 2000’s Hybrid Theory.
One question for this record will be whether a band of men pushing 40 years of age can be taken as genuine when singing songs of what amounts to teen angst, which very much remains their lyrical focus here. While being angry at the world never really goes out of fashion, it does tend to lose some credibility with the age of the artist, and can seem more than a little insincere past a certain point.
The album opens with ‘Lost in the Echo’, heavily featuring Mike Shinoda rapping in his very family-friendly, Will Smith style. The inclusion of dubstep elements in the opening track seems almost requisite, but they interpret it through a 90s nu-metal processor and the sounds are fairly dated in spite of their best efforts.
Things improve considerably with lead single ‘Burn It Down’, which blends guitar and electronics more effectively. The song is pleasant, with a cheerful and catchy synth melody, and even if that tone doesn’t remotely fit the theme of the song, it does sound nice.
‘Lies Greed Misery’ is a murky wub-fest, and a very energetic song. Shinoda’s rapping, by contrast, is quite lethargic, and he seems to make no adjustments at all from one song to the next. He might as well have written all of his parts as one long, monotonous rap, and later picked out bits to toss into tracks that needed something more. In the case of this particular song, one of the best on the album, it would probably have been better off without that inclusion.
‘Castle of Glass’ stands out for its soft, burnished tone, and its slightly less puerile poetry. ‘Victimized’ would be another highlight if it weren’t so very short. It’s an angry, biting screamo track, but ends too quickly, and as a result feels unfinished.
As you listen through the record, it becomes apparent that Linkin Park has simply replaced the nu-metal chugging guitar of past releases with a dubstep-inspired electronic grind. The result is exactly the same, making the methods seem wholly interchangeable, and that is exactly how the band appears to treat them.
‘Roads Untraveled’ is a cool song. The sounds take the listener into a place of depression, but with the feeling of always marching onward through it. Shinoda’s singing is actually more captivating than Bennington’s, at least at the low end, on more restrained songs such as this one. On ‘Skin to Bone’ as well, he simply comes across as more genuine, or at the very least less overdone. Chester Bennington is clearly a great vocalist with many strengths, but his voice is much better when it’s full blown–when he’s nearly screaming–while at other times he can sound a little whiny, and perhaps overly theatrical.
‘Until It Breaks’ wants to be a straight rap song, but it’s got its work cut out. Shinoda lists his skillset admirably, but he still seems slow and one-dimensional as a rapper throughout the record, and this song is no exception. The song is kind of neat, but its disjointed approach seems less the result of great inspiration, and more an unfinished mishmash of ideas.
The final two tracks, ‘Tinfoil’ and ‘Powerless’, are really one song, and I can’t imagine why they decided to split it in two. Maybe to highlight the former, as it is in fact the best part, but together they make what is far and away the most satisfying and complete experience of the record. It seems more personal, the emotion more real, and the high-pitched wail of the guitar is matched perfectly to a delicate piano. The song builds steadily, in contrast to almost every other track which tries to give it to you all at once and shock your system into submission. This is what a good Linkin Park song sounds like, and with it, the album is over.
It’s a very short album, at just shy of 37 minutes, and it’s not without its flaws, but new and old fans alike should get their fill out of Living Things. There is a problem with tone, with the band seeming less than completely genuine, and some may find it absurd to listen to a man of age to qualify for regular colon exams scream about the torment of being misunderstood. If nothing else it’s a record to get a bit of mindless aggression out of your system.
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.