Linkin Park: Living Things – Music Review
By Chris Kromphardt
Staff Writer, Justice Administrator
There’s nothing particularly memorable about Linkin Park’s new album, which after 2010’s polarizing A Thousand Suns is a marked disappointment. The band had a chance to push boundaries and continue to redefine their distinctive “hybrid theory,” and while Living Things is not a bad effort, it’s also not an interesting one.
This site saw a reaction to my largely positive review of Suns that was, in a word, jaw-dropping. Apparently there exists quite a gulf between people who consider themselves longtime LP fans, with one side feeling betrayed by the band’s experimental nature on display and the other — myself included — impressed by their willingness to explore what the band’s capable of.
Unfortunately for fans like me, there is very little of that same willingness on display in Living Things. On Suns, the band varied their vocal approach; while one might argue that they’d always used this approach, pointing to their two-singer modus operandi, they pushed that envelope even further, with Chester Bennington using his beautiful singing voice on songs like “Iridescent” in a way fans, familiar with older songs like “My December,” always knew he could. On top of that, the album interspersed audio clips of speakers like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mario Savio among the songs, further developing the somewhat abstract theme of revolution.
One consistency for Linkin Park in all of its work, especially this new album, is its instrumental variety. Whereas Suns transcended this idea by employing vocals-as-instrument in a brand new way, Living Things does it in earnest with impressive beats backing nearly every one of its songs. The band has always known how to catch a listener’s ear instantly, and on several songs they do it in a way that increasingly utilizes electronic music. In this respect the band truly pushes its self-stylized hybrid approach to crafting songs. Additionally, “Powerless” joins the band’s impressive pantheon of album-closers, including “Pushing Me Away,” “Numb,” and “The Little Things Give You Away,” that shows that the band — Sun’s excruciatingly melodramatic “The Messenger” notwithstanding — can still shut it down in style.
The album suffers where Suns mostly succeeded though, and that’s in the vocals. Bennington and emcee Mike Shinoda feature on nearly all of the songs here, but they don’t quite capture the seamless fusion of their unique styles as they have to perfection before on, say, Minutes to Midnight’s “Bleed It Out”; rather, one singer or the other seems unnecessarily foisted into some songs, notably the first single “Burn It Down,” a real banger fronted by Bennington until, oh there’s Mike rapping all of a sudden, completely sapping the song of its entire pumped-up mood. Similarly, “Victimized” is this album’s “Wretches and Kings,” with Bennington’s mindlessly petulant howling an all-too-painful reminder of the band’s nü-metal beginnings — and excesses — that for whatever reason it refuses to abandon.
All in all, Linkin Park has done too good of a job winning me back with songs like “Numb/Encore” off the Jay-Z mash-up album Collision Course and albums like Minutes and Suns that showcase a band truly interested in pushing themselves musically. But Living Things is just, well, boring. Even at 37 minutes, a return to the economical form of Hybrid Theory and Meteora, Living Things feels too long. But I’m still interested in what the next iteration of the hybrid theory the band will come up with next time around.
Photos by James Minchin, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records.