Review Summary: Great, but different.
One could describe latter-day Linkin Park as "experimental". One could also describe them as "generic". Both titles applied to their deviation from their standards in Minutes to Midnight
, and to a larger extent in A Thousand Suns
. Some people praised Linkin Park for doing something different; others longed for the days when Bennington and Shinoda would trade verses as if their chemistry were intrinsic. I do admit I enjoyed both Minutes to Midnight
and A Thousand Suns
as albums, but as Linkin Park releases, especially in the wake of their "signature" nu metal / rap rock sound, they lacked intensity. They lacked conviction
When Linkin Park said, We feel like we're in our skins again,
about their fifth album and released "Burn It Down" and leaked "Lies Greed Misery", I panicked a little. I don't think I was the only one -- after all, the former track was a radio-ready electro-rock song, and the latter was drowned with effects and a chorus that sounded like it was written during a lazy Sunday. Was this Linkin Park's definition of comfort?
Needless to say, I began listening to Living Things
expecting subpar quality. I ended the album wondering why I liked it so much. Perhaps I have a weak spot for soaring choruses, or for electronic flourishes, but I thought the album was good. Sure, it places Linkin Park in the same area of alternative rock as bands like 30 Seconds to Mars
, but that isn't a bad thing. It's just different.
Speaking of differences...
"Lost in the Echo" launches Living Things
with what sounds suspiciously like -- bear with me -- technopop. The electric guitars and rapping enter soon enough, but the initial saccharine electronics are still a little shocking, and the guitars do little to alleviate the electronics in the rest of the song. Linkin Park stating they were returning to form was a bad choice of words: They have regained their initial intensity and emotion, yes, but they can't be construed as nu metal now by any stretch of the imagination. The next song, "In My Remains", continues the electronic trend except sans rapping; again, not a problem, just something many see as alien for Linkin Park.
In album context, single "Burn It Down" and leaked track "Lies Greed Misery" sound better than they did by their lonesomes, but they're still two of the worst tracks on the album: The former is generic electronic pop rock, and the latter, while possessing some good rapping and Bennington's powerful vocals in the bridge and last chorus refrain, still irks me with the futility of its chorus.
Luckily, the songs afterward improve upon the album. "I'll Be Gone" switches back to clean vocals and an anthemic chorus that could have fit easily on A Thousand Suns
. Shinoda harmonizes with Bennington on also A Thousand Suns
-ready "Castle of Glass". "Victimized" starts strong, leads into a screamed chorus followed by "Waiting for the End"-esque rapping and a reiteration of the chorus. The track neatly segues into the electronics-tinged ballad "Roads Untraveled", complete with Bennington "ooh"-ing over soft chords (yet another reminder, if we needed it, of how Linkin Park has changed).
The melody that introduces "Skin to Bone" vaguely brings to mind the synth intro of "Lying from You", though unlike the latter, the former is devoid of rapping; Shinoda instead opts to harmonize with Bennington. The rapping returns on "Until it Breaks" to take the reins of an electronic hip-hop tune; Bennington jumps in to sing something angsty, backs off for another burst of hip-hop, then returns for the stadium-ready closing melody. It's an intriguing juxtaposition of parts that is the most experimental song in this album's lineup.
"Tinfoil" is the only instrumental track on Living Things
; while its electronic beat is catchy, it's no "Session" or even "Cure for the Itch" as it lacks any actual melodic constructions. Closing track "Powerless" retains the synthesized-sounding beat and adds quiet piano and soothing, stadium-ready vocals from Bennington. It, and most other songs in the second half of the album, provide a pleasing emotional catharsis for the aggression displayed in the first half.
It's an undeniable fact that Linkin Park has changed greatly since their release of Meteora
. Some fans of the band continue to act like the change was a bad thing. I respectfully disagree. A band need not stick to the same style of music to be considered good -- in fact, some bands are heavily criticized for doing exactly that (read: Nickelback
, The Fray
, etc.). While Living Things
has its poppier moments, I still believe it's a sound album that effectively combines Linkin Park's earlier sound with its current, electronic approach to music. Whether or not other fans like this album depends on how willing they are to accept that Linkin Park has changed.
A taste for electronic music also helps.