I will preface this review by stating I am neither a Linkin Park lover, nor a hater. That being said, their discography is more background music than Rock and Roll Hall of Fame fodder. With this band, I don’t honestly know where to give or take away credit. Besides Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington, I couldn’t tell you the name of another band member without looking it up. I personally felt the highlight for them was Meteora and Shinoda’s side project Fort Minor’s lone album The Rising Tide. Since then it’s pretty much been the Rick Rubin and Linkin Park show, sometimes successful (most of Minutes to Midnite), other times an utter failure (A Thousand Suns). Living Things bridges the gap between Meteora and today. It’s still rap-rock (groan) but it’s a more mature, realized and polished sound.
As stand alone tracks that preceded the album, “Burn It Down”‘ and “Lies Greed Misery” did nothing for me, but framed in the context of the entire album, they work. I told some of my colleagues last week that the best thing I could say – in wanting to tackle this review – was that after one listen, I wanted to listen a bit more. It still feels mostly like background music for me. For as much as I hated the last album, I could see they were attempting risks (and unfortunately, flailing wildly). This album plays things closer to the vest and to their strengths. “Victimized”, clocking in at a lean and mean 1:46, is one of the shortest tracks that in a short burst, features a Shinoda rap, metal guitars, electro filler, and trademark Bennington screams.
The back half of the album though, after repeated listens, does tend to falter and lose some of the punch of the first half. “Roads Untravelled”, “Skin to Bone”, “Until It Breaks” (despite a truncated version of the its probable inclusion on a Madden game soundtrack), and “Powerless” (one of those powerFULL ballads that will probably end up on a Transformers soundtrack) are all less than inspiring.
The band’s fan base is still strong enough to see them through a few more albums – especially when they’re on track now to release a new album every couple of years. I still find myself humming along to a few of the tracks and probably wouldn’t switch the channel on them if I ever listened to terrestrial radio. The bottom line: they aren’t Rage Against The Machine or the Beastie Boys, but on the plus side, they aren’t Limp Bizkit either.