Review Summary: Lost in the echo of their glorified past.
The problem with Linkin Park in 2012 is quite simple. For all the fanfare that they were showered with early in their career, they have time and again proven themselves to be a one-trick pony. When nu-metal and rap-rock went the way of the dinosaur in the mid-2000’s, Bennington and company found themselves tangled in an identity crisis called Minutes to Midnight
, which contained several half-hearted ballads, a few odes to U2, and even a laughable attempt at political commentary. In the end (ha), there was only a small trace of actual
Linkin Park to speak of. A Thousand Suns
was then the equivalent of the band taking a Green Day circa 21st Century Breakdown
caliber leap in ill-advised grandiosity, aiming for the stars and falling amongst the forgotten. That brings us to Living Things
, which, for all intents and purposes, seems like it should be the record that brings good ol’ Linkin Park back into the limelight. Even I’ll admit that their act is believable: more rap verses, more screaming, a better overall balance…but when all is said and done, this is still the new Linkin Park that nobody likes; they’re just trying harder to be who we all want them to be.
A degree of admiration is due, however, because they at least had the good sense to (partially) abandon the overwrought, superfluous direction taken on A Thousand Suns
. Living Things
feels more like Meteora
than it does Danger Days: The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys
, and that alone is deserving of a solemn nod of respect. ‘Lost In The Echo’ is just the opener this album needs, starting with an unforgettable rap verse from Mike Shinoda and then achieving equilibrium with Bennington’s somewhat-screamed-but-still-melodic chorus. It’s not overly catchy, and perhaps it feels a little like a Hybrid Theory
filler track, but after ‘Shadow Of The Day’, we’ll take it. ‘In My Remains’ and ‘Burn It Down’ are samey tracks, and their adjacent slots in the track listing don’t do either any favors. With that said, they both still contain memorable mid-tempo beats, with ‘Burn It Down’ in particular presenting Shinoda’s best effort from the album. So as we stand - three tracks in – we have a feeling of nostalgia, but nothing groundbreaking to speak of. It’s still a step up from anything they’ve done lately though, so listeners should feel inclined to trek on.
What you’ll find after that is a mess – sometimes it’s beautiful (the sprawling, gorgeous ‘Until It Breaks’) and other times it’s just a complete *** show (the lazy, haphazardly constructed ‘Victimized’). The band deserves some accolades for Living Things
’ latter half, which adopts more of an experimental personality while still containing two of the record’s standout ballads (closer ‘Powerless’ is breathtaking), but whatever enthusiasm is born from that is tempered, if not fully extinguished, by the mind-numbingly weak middle that you have to trudge through just to get to the interesting parts. ‘Lies Greed Misery’ might be the worst thing any nu-metal band has ever done. That’s saying a lot. ‘I’ll Be Gone’ lacks anything discernable to make it stand out, ‘Castle of Glass’ would have been better if it wasn’t inferior to the similar sounding final track ‘Powerless’, and the teen-angst ridden lyrics to ‘Victimized’ are so redundant that they make you want to bash your head in on the nearest hard surface every time Bennington shouts the song’s title. As for ‘Roads Untraveled’, it is still a mystery to me as to why anyone would think it’s a good idea for him to sing his own song. Don’t get me wrong - he doesn’t have a bad voice, but he always sounds subdued and emotionless, as if his neck was freshly pierced by a potent tranquilizer dart prior to him entering the studio. Plus, we all know that he is an excellent rapper and producer. It’s like taking the best salesman in the office and telling him to man the phones at the front desk. It’s just poor judgment – poor management – to put him in a situation he doesn’t belong in, and Living Things
suffers for it at times. ‘Skin To Bone’ is one of the few hidden gems, coming at the back end of the forgettable middle and bringing with it one of the catchiest (if most cliché) choruses on the record, “ash to ashes, dust to dust.”
Overall, Living Things
is a difficult album to digest because your perception of it will be influenced by your familiarity with Linkin Park’s first two records. It’s an attempted return to form, but it lacks the passion of ‘Papercut’ or the lyrics to ‘A Place For My Head.’ There are still traces of their recent, more mature outings, but those moments are predictably outshined by the ones that harken back to the band’s glory days. After five years of attending Linkin Park’s funeral, it’s nice to see them alive and kicking again, but we’re going to need to see quite a bit more before we can call it a comeback.