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The Resurrection We’ve Been Waiting For – LIVING THINGS; Linkin Park – A Review

June 26, 2012

After Linkin Park, who have become sort of legends of the early 2000s rap metal revolution (the very phase of popular music that got me into the alternative scene), released A Thousand Suns in 2010, I thought my days of listening to their new releases with pleasure were done. The band described it as “experimental”, I describe it as an absolute flop. Nobody who grew up on Linkin Park as I did could possibly appreciate that. So when I heard that they were releasing Living Things, their fifth original release (if you don’t count Reanimation, which was a rejig of their existing tracks), I was a bit apprehensive. However, a facebook comment from a friend said it “kinda touches on their original music” – and yeah that’s a quote – and I knew right then and there I had to get it straight on download from iTunes. A painful 40 minutes later of waiting for my phone to download it and sync it into my library on my laptop, and there I was, hitting play.

When “Lost In The Echo” started up with very synthesised and sort of mainstream dance-ish instrumental with only undertones of heavy bass, I almost died inside. “Holy hell,” I thought to myself. “I thought they’d lost the plot at A Thousand Suns. What the f*** is this?!”. But then, instead of turning off in disgust, I clung on, hoping to find something in there. And I did. Mike Shinoda’s rapping came flying out my speakers and took me right back to the first time I heard “In the End”, my favourite track from Hybrid Theory, way back when I was about 13. Chester Bennington’s contribution in the chorus was, as expected, softer than in the band’s early days, but I seem to remember hearing once that he had to give up the shouting because his voice was completely knackered, plus I prefer when I can tell what people are saying when they sing anyway. By the second chorus, I was starting to feel like there was a bit more to this album than that first intro suggests.

“In My Remains” is a cracker of a second track – I can’t put my finger on quite why I like it so much – it’s not comparable to any song in Linkin Park’s repertoire that I count among my favourites – but it has something about it. There’s a little growl of the aggression Chester’s vocals used to have back in the day creeping in there, which comes out even more in “Burn it Down”, which I understand is the lead single from the album. If you scroll down to the bottom of this review, you’ll find I’ve stuck in the youtube video so you can have a listen for yourself. Again, I can’t compare “Burn it Down” to anything, but it’s catchy, the lyrics are memorable and I can see it being a real crowd pleaser at their upcoming gigs.

“Lies Greed Misery” is a bit of an album filler type track; it doesn’t have the same “classic” LP feel to it as the opening tracks on the album, focussing more on rap than on Chester Bennington’s fantastic singing voice and even getting a bit of a shout I thought was beyond his capacity back in there. It’s still perfectly listenable though, and all these years of resting his voice are clearly doing him some good if he can belt out some shouts as he’s doing on this album. “I’ll Be Gone” is a direct return to the way the album started and I really hope it’ll be the next single release. It’s got a certain grittiness and anger to it that gives it real strength, like it takes no nonsense from anyone.

“Castle of Glass”, even though it has a sort of folk-country vibe to it, comes across as though it should be another album-filler track, but it’s got some real clout to it. The strong beat is impossible to resist tapping along to and both instrumentally and vocally it makes for simply really pleasant listening. “Victimised”, in contrast, shows a much more hardcore and rap influence and although listenable, is probably the first track I’d skip over if it came up on shuffle in my iPod. I’m sorry to say that it’s really just, well, noise. Fortunately at only 1 minute 46 seconds long, it’s a brief disappointment to endure and then “Roads Untravelled” begins with a tinkling of what I can only describe as windchimes, although the proper name of the instrument is right on the tip of my tongue. The folk-ish influence is back in this track, with exposed vocals, fantastic harmonies and what I’m sure I identified as a guest female vocal ruling the first part of the nearly 4 minute track and a rhythmic either 3 or 6 beat (either a very fast 3 or a still pretty quick 6!) instrumental guiding the rest through to the end.

“Skin to Bone”, to me, really is an album filler. It doesn’t have the same vocal or instrumental appeal to it as first tracks on the album and although it’s perfectly listen-to-able, it just doesn’t get me excited like some of the earlier tracks. “Until it Breaks” continues in a similar vein, putting Linkin Park in very danger of ending a very strong first half of an album in a weak, nothingish way. When the minute long instrumental “Tinfoil” begins, though, they have the chance to save themselves. An instrumental before the final track can only mean one thing – it’s building suspense ready to go out with not only a bang, but an apocalyptic explosion. To that end, there’s a lot of pressure on the seemingly ironically named “Powerless”. The final track of the album starts gently, with Chester’s vocals accompanied by a piano and some light synthesised percussion as far as the first chorus. By the second chorus, it feels as though the song’s built as far as it can and just hasn’t hit the spot. There’s a bit of further instrumental build towards the end as guitars get on board as well as the percussion and piano, but it tails off and ends before it can really amount to anything impressive. It’s a nice track, I wouldn’t skip over it, but apocalyptic explosion? More like popping a balloon.

If you thought A Thousand Suns killed Linkin Park, you’re as wrong as I was before I heard this album. As the title of this album suggests, the band are very much still here, still relevant, and still Living Things. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn good compared to what they’re coming from, and it’s the first step on the journey back to what made them great in the first place. Now, guys, let’s have no more of these silly experiments and more of what we know and love you for, yeah?

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