Album Review: Living Things – Linkin Park

The latest major offering from the ever-present Linkin Park came out last week and I’ve been listening to it pretty heavily so I could form a proper opinion on it before the end of the month.

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Released:
April 2012
Label:
Warner Bros
Genre: Alternative/Electronic Rock
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Mummy... thing

Typically abstract stuff here.

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TRACK LISTING

1. Lost in the Echo
2. In My Remains
3. Burn It Down
4. Lies Greed Misery
5. I’ll Be Gone
6. Castle of Glass
7. Victimized
8. Roads Untraveled
9. Skin to Bone
10. Until it Breaks
11. Tinfoil
12. Powerless

I have been a Linkin Park fan ever since I started buying music. My first musical purchase of any kind was Meteora back in 2003, an album I still revisit from time to time without as much as a second thought. That would make me a fan of the band for the better part of a decade, so I’ve been used to their relatively slow release schedule for a while. When I heard that the band was set to release their fifth studio album a mere eighteen months after their fourth, literally half the time they waited between their previous major releases (2000, 2003, 2007 and 2010) I was a little shocked. I didn’t have much of an opportunity to psych myself up for it and in what seemed like no time at all, I had the first track of Living Things blaring from a pair of speakers. I was confused yet pleasantly surprised by what I got.

The album features a real mix of styles born from the six-piece band’s previous sonic experiments. There is a bit more screaming and a lot more rapping on Living Things than there was on either Minutes to Midnight or A Thousand Suns, but that doesn’t mean LP has returned to the “advancing wall” sound of their first two albums. The two-chord choruses and vinyl scratches of the past have given way to techno flourishes, some creative hooks and even a few dubstep beat lines (although thankfully, no dubstep bass dropping). In fact, group DJ Joe Hahn has more of a presence on this record than ever before.

The album starts very strongly, with a guitar-and-dance-floor-buzz hybrid opening on Lost in the Echo. Mike Shinoda, heart and soul of the band as always, lets loose some spoken rhymes with a very Hybrid Theory rhythm while lead vocalist Chester Bennington alternates his syrupy vocal style with some growling at the song’s bridge. In My Remains is primarily Bennington and feels like it might fit on an album by his side project band Dead by Sunrise. Lead single Burn it Down has the catchiest tune of anything on the record and its constant pulsing beat certainly doesn’t hurt.

If you’ve seen the multiplayer trailer for EA Games’ upcoming FPS Medal of Honor: Warfighter then you’ve heard Lies Greed Misery, which manifests as an up-and-down salvo of poison aimed at either a politician or an ex-beau. Linkin Park insisted that the album as a whole was more personal this time, so probably the latter, but its very presence in that trailer should tell you how interchangeable the band’s somewhat generic lyrics can be.

Shinoda gives his ever-improving singing voice a run in support of Bennington on the harmony-rich and excellent I’ll Be Gone, which leads well into the minimalistic sound of Castle of Glass on which Shinoda takes the lead. Then Victimized, the record’s shortest and most belligerent track by far, whirls by at a mere one minute forty-seven. Bennington hasn’t strained his vocal chords this much since the days of Faint, nor has Rob Bourdon pounded the drums harder.

The relief from all that aggression comes instantly in the form of Roads Untraveled, the most chilled-out song on the album. Shinoda and Bennington switch lead roles as they croon the most unexpectedly emotional song the band has written since 2007’s The Little Things Give You Away (which just so happens to be my favourite LP song of all time). The track’s follow-up, Skin to Bone, allegedly shares its folk music inspiration, though it packs a more straightforward structure.

The low point of Living Things comes late, as Until it Breaks and Tinfoil collaborate to bring down the album’s momentum. The former is a hodge-podge of novel ideas featuring try-hard rap lyrics, nonsensical sung ones and not much of a tune. This is a shame because it features a nice singing cameo from guitarist Brad Delson. The latter is an attempt to return to the structure of Linkin Park’s first two albums, where the penultimate track was an instrumental. Yet the track is nowhere near as good as either Cure for the Itch or Session. Thankfully the album doesn’t end there, because Powerless is an awesome final track worthy of the group’s past closing efforts. It also blends surprisingly well into the start of the band’s previous album A Thousand Suns, if you feel the urge to listen to it back-to-back with this one.

Living Things isn’t my favourite Linkin Park album, as it lacks the cohesion of Suns, the adventure of Midnight or the energy of the band’s first two releases. However, it does indicate that for the first time in a long while, LP have settled on a sound they are comfortable with. They have a larger repertoire than ever to draw from and as a longtime fan, that makes me quite happy.

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THE VERDICT

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Strongest Tracks:
Lost in the Echo, Burn it Down, I’ll Be Gone, Roads Untraveled, Powerless
Weakest Tracks:
Until it Breaks, Tinfoil
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3.5 VsG !

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Shahab on December 11, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Nice. In my opinion Castle of Glass is the best in album with In My Remains. Although, the whole album is still way too far from Hybrid Theory or Meteora.
    I think Tinfoil its just a prologue for Powerless therefore it is nothing on it.
    Thanks for the review.

    Reply

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