Living Things – Review 2.0

You may have noticed that Linkin Park released a new album on June 26th, titled Living Things. Like their four previous studio albums, this newest work has climbed to the very top of the Billboard 200, making it number-one in the United States. It is likely that Linkin Park are the only rock band from my younger years to have achieved a great success like this, since other notable bands unfortunately existed before I was brought forth into the world. If it were possible for me to obtain a flux capacitor, and travel back in time so that I could live through The Beatles seventeen number-one albums in the United States, believe me, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Now, I was raised by a mother who was born in the mid-fifties and grew up in the sixties, and the notion that The Beatles are, and always will be the greatest rock band on this planet has been ingrained in my skull and no one will ever convince either of us otherwise. Are Linkin Park close to rivaling The Beatles? No, but there will never be another band like Linkin Park.

Linkin Park first came onto the scene with a self-titled EP album under a different band name, “Xero”. At this point in time, Chester Bennington, who now is one of the two lead vocalists, was not even in the picture and none of the other band members even knew of his existence. If you listen to this miniature album, and then listen to Living Things, the difference between the two is quite extraordinary. Moving on to their second EP, self-titled “Hybrid Theory”, to their first studio album, also titled “Hybrid Theory”, on through to their fourth studio album, “A Thousand Suns”, the evolution of this band is amazingly well-defined. I highly recommend that before you, the reader, listen to Living Things, you should listen to their first two EP albums, and every studio album, in order based on their release dates. This newest record won’t make any sense to you if you don’t.

As stated multiple times by Mike Shinoda and his bandmates, Living Things embodies all of “the tools in the tool box”. Some of the songs have clear reflections of their first two studio albums, others with high energy resemble their third album, and the unique song structure relates best to their earliest works and their fourth record.

Another thing to note, is that Mike Shinoda does not just rap anymore, and Chester does not just sing, growl, scream, growl and sing again. Their chemistry is still there just as much as it was from the beginning, and actually a little bit more-so than before. Shinoda proved with songs like In Between and No Roads Left that he has a powerful voice, and is not afraid to show it. While certain songs on this newly discovered release travel back to Shinoda’s roots as a rapper, other songs, like “Castle of Glass”, are sung freestyle with a smooth, eerily calm voice. It’s hard to recognize him in some places, with the way his vocal ability has grown in recent years.

Chester Bennington takes an odd secondary approach here. He dominates vocals on a specific set of songs, while having shorter parts in others. Honestly, I was a bit bothered by this at first and did not fully understand why it was done this way. Then I remembered back to their first two EP albums, where the songs had a similar song structure and vocalization to what we hear on this newest piece. And fans, be prepared, because this man delivers the meanest, most gut-wrenching screams I have heard from him, as well as one of the most emotional melodies to come out of his lungs.

After my first time reviewing the album, my views on it have changed dramatically, but, there are some opinions I have, that still stand. One of those views that changed was my opinion of Burn it Down. It just is not my personal taste, and, that has nothing to with, and never will have anything to do with the quality of the album. Even though a song like Victimized, has grown on me, I feel like in its short time span (only 1:51), there is too much happening. Each part could have been separated into its own song. It sounds to me like they had all of these ideas that they didn’t know what to do with so they mashed them all together and fell in love with it. If you know anything about how this band works, based on their previous track record, it’s just like them to do that. These are the same people who put out their first single, One Step Closer, which donned lyrics “Wish I could find a way to disappear”, and, “I find bliss in ignorance”. Based solely on the lyrics alone, I’ll take Victimized over On Step Closer any day of the week.

That moves into my next point. Not a single song on this album has lyrics that I think need to be improved upon. While some are more aesthetic and poetic than others, each song is full of a bit of reality in the face of animosity. It has been stated that the album is personal, and while I won’t share what I think the lyrics are specifically about, I am thrilled they are writing about what they feel. Songs like Lies Greed Misery and Victimized have some very mean lyrics, the former showing a cheerful attitude toward the downfall of a royal asshole, for lack of a better term, and the latter making the point that you know nothing about what it is like to be a victim, and deserve to be placed within striking range of your own kind.

Other lyrics, like those from Until it Breaks, make a grotesque but beautiful point of how pushing a human too much can bend them until they crash, break, and decay. Why do we get off on harming people so much? It’s the one aspect of human nature that we may never fully understand.

The final point I would like to make is the album art. The cover is a photo manipulation of Chester Bennington with a milk white outer-layer shedding away to reveal a dark red and black layer underneath. There are only suggestions of where eyes and a mouth might have been. This frightening but compelling piece could mean many different things, possibly some of those ideas inspired by the lyrics. As humans, we constantly search for a connection with another person’s eyes. This is why we are often unnerved by the visually impaired and blind, as well as dreams of people with missing eyes. It’s as though “Chester” has somehow been stripped of his human quality and is now void of all humanity. The direct opposite, of a living thing.

The art is very interesting, and is fun to stare at and wonder about. There is a piece for each band member, but the only distinctive one is Chester, and maybe Rob Bourdon. I won’t spoil any more details, you have to examine it all yourself. It’s more enjoyable that way.

My only disappointment is that this is the third consecutive time the band members have not made the album art themselves. I highly doubt we will ever see their visual art again in this context, and I find this unfortunate. The relationship between their art and the studio albums has always been far stronger than the relationship between the albums and an outside artist trying to look in. I am likely a lone wolf in my belief that they should concentrate on making album art again, and I have even been met with unnecessary negativity by fellow fans, for my opinion in this matter. It still stands, and always will.

If you are looking to add Living Things to your CD collection, I urge you to approach it with an open mind and an open heart. Some songs you will enjoy, others will make you cry, and a few will make you really think and suck you into their musical world.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars, respectfully.

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