Review of New Linkin Park album – LIVING THINGS
About a week ago Linkin Park released their 5th studio album entitled ‘Living Things’. Their goal was to consolidate the strengths of all previous studio efforts into a new, fresh sound. Big choruses, electric guitars, personal lyrics and (more importantly) a return of up-tempo songs were among the list of ingredients this album was said to contain according to frontman Chester Bennington in a Kerrang interview a few months back. What we actually get for the most part is a mediocre electro/synth pop record that is weighted down by very muddy production. Imagine previous record ‘A Thousand Suns’ but drowned in overzealous experimentation and just generally nowhere near as good!
A while back I reviewed 2 songs from the record that were released as teasers for the upcoming album release. I dismissed first single ‘Burn it down’ as a relatively dull ATS b-side, a mid-tempo pseudo-ballad that is synthesized to the hilt that sports a catchy chorus but is otherwise uninteresting. The second teaser release was ‘Lies greed misery’, a short and aggressive number with a dubstep vibe that featured strong vocals but sonically came across as a cumbersome mess of synths. My opinion for both these tracks is unchanged but there are both better and worse things to be heard on the full record. ‘I’ll be gone’ is an upbeat, poppy number that is inoffensive and kinda catchy yet easily forgettable and definitely not joining the ranks of LP’s timeless greats, the soft verse deliveries by Chester are perhaps its redeeming feature. The music itself switches between subtle drum machine work to give the vocals room to breathe before immediately crashing into the jumbled synthesizer stew that plagues the majority of the album.
There is no doubt in my mind that opening track ‘lost in the echo’ is the strongest track on the album, on paper it has the classic Linkin Park song structure but delivered in a way more akin to ATS yet again. The electronics in the background are poppy but also have a haunting side as well as a strong beat, I hate the word ‘epic’ being used in this context but there is definitely that kind of quality emerging on the choruses. Not breaking any new musical boundaries since the last album but this is definitely worth a listen.
‘Roads untravelled’ is quite an interesting one, a piano ballad with Mike singing some very heartfelt words in a style not too dissimilar to Marcus Mumford from Mumford and Sons. Curiously the song is sugar coated in bell jingles from start to finish, upon first listen I thought they got in the way but actually it works pretty well. Not one to cheer yourself up with but again worth a listen.
Victimized will surprise a few people, probably the fastest and heaviest track on the album. Featuring some brutal screaming and drum work contrastingly placed alongside soft pianos and melodic singing with some rap thrown in for good measure.
Crap/boring tracks include -and this list is not exhaustive- album closer ‘Powerless’, yet another pseudo ballad somewhat reminiscent of the aforementioned ‘I’ll be gone’ but without the drops and even easier to forget. ‘Tinfoil’ is disguised as an instrumental but is really nothing more than a moody intro to the previously mentioned track and quite frankly didn’t need to be on the album at all. ‘Until it breaks’ starts so promisingly as a hard hip- hop number with ambient beats in the background and some Fort Minor-esque lyrical spits from Mike… then it undergoes a sudden change of atmosphere with Brad Delson of all people entering with a dreary vocal harmony over some violins and a drum machine causing the song to derail entirely.
Mr Hahn’s famous scratch work is non-existent along with any memorable guitar riffs and if the bass isn’t completely synthesized then I’ve been fooled. It seems like LP is actively trying to write its’ band members out of the band! After the solid ATS record I really had high expectations for ‘Living Things’. I hoped it would further explore the ATS sound while recapturing the fast-paced energy of the old days… in some ways it does yet I’d still rate this the weakest LP record to date.
Review by Al Westlake