Linkin Park: Living Things Review

Linkin Park were once the kings of rock.  They had a unique style and addictive brand of music, flawlessly blending hard rock, rap and even experimental influence into incredibly aggressive and heavy rock masterpieces. Lead singer Chester Bennington screamed his face off, Mike Shinoda rapped impressive and catchy verses, Joe Hahn mixed things up on the turntable to add flair and Dave Farrell, Brad Delson and Rob Bourdon supplied the heavy guitar and drums to bring everything together. Hybrid Theory and Meteora were two phenomenal hard rock albums that continue to find playtime in any fan’s music rotation to this day. And then came Minutes To Midnight, the band’s third album that was seen as a major failure because of its ballad-heavy track listing. Little did fans know that compared to the upcoming A Thousand Suns, that album had an abundance of heavy rock anthems worth treasuring. But at the time, it seemed like a small departure from the complex and downright wicked brand of music Linkin Park was known for. But then came the major turning point, as all the experimental and electronic techniques that had once provided some of the coolest and most unique moments (emphasis on the word “moments”) completely took over as the band produced their fourth album. The result was a sorry product that completely abandoned the winning formula that had garnered them so many fans. Instead, it favored distorted political speeches, warbled static and other random noises attempting to be artistic. And ever since then, fans have been mourning the loss of the once stellar group that changed the face of hard rock with Hybrid Theory and Meteora. So when reports came out (soon after the release of A Thousand Suns) that Linkin Park was writing new material and that it would be in the same vein as their first two masterful albums, fans approached with cautious optimism. Was Linkin Park really going back to what made them a phenomenal band in the first place? Could we all look forward to actual rock music again instead of experimental distortion and a ridiculous attempt at reggae? Would Living Things satisfy a population waiting for vintage Linkin Park again? Unfortunately, the answer to all of those questions is a resounding no. While the band’s fifth album has a few quality tunes, Living Things still favors a lighter, watered down approach and there’s little to hold the interest of someone who’s ever heard Linkin Park’s first two albums (or even Minutes To Midnight for that matter).  This newest failure for Linkin Park is a small improvement from their last, but unfortunately for their credibility and for the fans that will still feel abandonedimproving on an awful album like A Thousand Suns isn’t that hard to do.

Standout Tracks

“Lost In The Echo”  certainly tricks listeners into hoping that Linkin Park might be back in full force, as the album’s opening track is easily their best song since Minutes To Midnight. This is without question the best song on Living Things and one of the few worth listening to, showcasing the band’s experimental capabilities at their best. Mike Shinoda is (finally) rapping the verses again and Bennington even gives a few aggressive screams for old time’s sake. If only the energy and hard rock power in this one stellar track could have lasted for the rest of the album.

At this point, you either love “Burn It Down” or you hate it. This single is actually a decent song by the album’s low standards, but is extremely overplayed (even TNT and ESPN hadn’t already ruined it by playing it in every NBA playoff promo, the radio would have finished the job). Shinoda is actually rapping again instead of singing, which is a good sign, but Bennington’s vocals don’t ever get aggressive enough for this song to be truly memorable. The anger, the emotion and the raw rock energy are all gone as Linkin Park’s latest single settles for a catchy (and slightly annoying) electronic melody to draw listeners in. Unfortunately, on an album this bland, “Burn It To The Ground” actually sticks out as one of its best tracks. Just keep in mind that a song like this wouldn’t have made the cut on Hybrid Theory OR Meteora.

“Victimized” rounds out the list of noteworthy songs on Living Things. Yes, the song with a 1:46 track time that mostly consists of Chester Bennington screaming “Victimized!” at the top of his lungs over and over again. It’s not a good song by any means and its short length makes it even less memorable, but there’s a reason it stands out. It’d be easy to get taken in with decent songs like “In My Remains,” “I’ll Be Gone,” “Castle Of Glass” and “Powerless,” but doing so would only be a disservice to the great band that Linkin Park used to be. Because as pleasant as those songs are, and even though they’re good for what they are (poppy, light rock songs meant for the radio waves), at least a song like “Victimized” lets us remember what it was like back when Bennington would scream and shout in our earbuds with reckless abandon. This straightforward and seemingly pointless track is nothing but random screaming to a backdrop of hard drumming, but at this point, it’s as close as fans are going to get to vintage Linkin Park.

The Verdict

One thing needs to be clear: This is still not the Linkin Park fans fell in love with. This is not Hybrid Theory. This is not Meteora. But thankfully, it’s definitely not A Thousand Suns either. Living Things won’t convince disheartened fans that Linkin Park is truly back, and it certainly isn’t a good album, but it’s a (small) step in the right direction. Maybe because it couldn’t be any worse than the appallingly dreadful A Thousand Suns, but Linkin Park’s newest album does show signs of life at times, even if they are faint, few and far between. However, don’t expect to enjoy this newest effort, Linkin Park fans. Contrary to the popular belief that litters iTunes reviews and Twitter, this is not the Linkin Park we know and love. They didn’t go back to their roots, they didn’t “turn things around” and they did little to win back the smart fans who abandoned ship long ago. Even after Minutes To Midnight slightly changed their sound and then A Thousand Suns completely obliterated it, there was still some hope that Linkin Park would pick up the quality of their music and rediscover their passion for rocking faces off. Unfortunately, Living Things does little to restore that hope. If anything, it only reassures the depressing notion that the Linkin Park fans cherished for so long is forever gone. Maybe they got sick of that angry style of music. Maybe they got lost in the experimental side of their own music. Or maybe they tried to mold their sound to get more plays on the radio. But whatever the case, Linkin Park is definitely not back. And anyone who says differently needs to take a quick trip down memory lane with Hybrid Theory and Meteora to remember what good Linkin Park really sounds like.

Final Score: 4/10

Rank: 4th (five total albums)

Track List

  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

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