Warner Bros. / Machine Shop, 2012
REVIEW BY: Melanie Love
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/08/2012
It must be the early 2000s again. Linkin Park has just dropped their fifth album, reaching the top of the Billboard charts with a collection of songs that sounds straight out of the Hybrid Theory era. While their previous two discs, 0Minutes To Midnight (2007) and A Thousand Suns (2010), were more experimental, Living Things veers towards a more familiar sound from the rap-rockers. There’s not a lot of music from the beginning of the aughts that I still enjoy, but most of Linkin Park’s singles still stand up, showcasing furious bursts of raw instrumentation and the distinctive interplay between singer Chester Bennington and rapper/co-vocalist Mike Shinoda.
According to Bennington in a radio interview, this latest album finds the band “embracing everything that [they] have done in the past," taking the "best pieces" of their previous four albums and "smash[ing] them together into this new record." Indeed, the first half of Living Things is immediately recognizable as playing to all the LP strengths, launching out with opener “Lost In The Echo.” The vocals pound with Bennington and Shinoda’s inexhaustible energy, a strangely charismatic duo when backed by thunderous drums to create a raucous wall of sound. There’s a new electronic flavor to the proceedings here, which adds in a bit of much-needed freshness considering that there’s not too much variety among the twelve songs here.
Still, when LP is good, they’ll craft singles that make you surrender to the spirit of rock, like “Burn It Down.” Sure, it’s almost indistinguishable from the formula that made cuts like “What I’ve Done” or “Numb” so excellent, but the swirling electro beats here add in a cool buoyancy, and the vaguely political chorus “We’re building it up to break it back down / We’re building it up to burn it down / We can’t wait to burn it to the ground” will end up stuck in your head on loop.
Produced by Mike Rubin, this disc has a poppish polish to it, and when paired with the move towards a more chart-friendly electronic sound (think Skrillex), it can be incongruous at times with the raw hysterics of Shinoda’s vocals and the peal of guitars. “Lies Greed Misery” and “I’ll Be Gone” become almost too histrionic for their own good, and it becomes hard to distinguish between certain tracks as the album wears on.
Fortunately, Living Things hits its peak right after with the slow-burning “Castles Of Glass.” With muted vocals and swirls of texture, it becomes strangely ethereal despite still being hard rocking. This is easily one of the more arresting moments on an album that can at times be a bit too straightforward. The slower moments, such as “Castles” and “Roads Untraveled,” become standouts, the latter being an ominous ode to lost love tricked out with eerie bells and soulful vocal stylings. Songs like these show that there is still artistic growth left in LP, despite having been releasing albums in a largely similar style over the past decade.
Overall, Living Things doesn’t quite emerge as a totally cohesive record. For an album that only clocks in at thirty seven minutes, there are two many songs that just don’t stick with me and end up blurring together in a slog of thudding beats and vaguely moody screaming. Still, there are some moments of great strength here – not to mention catchiness and pure rocking – so that Living Things ends up worth wading through.
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