I heard Linkin Park for the first time four years ago, a fresh chicken just a few days into college. Linkin Park was the ABC of rock for my generation(which doesn’t mean people of my age all over the world, rather people of my age, of Indian subcontinent, and of similar socio-economic strata) and Metallica that of metal. Four years, and I’ve come a long way in my wanderings through musical universe. Still, there’s a nostalgic soft feeling for these staples of rocks which keeps surfacing time and again.
The band which exploded on the scene with Hybrid Theory and established its position with Meteora,, went the right way, ie. the experimental way with Minutes to Midnight. A Thousand Suns, the most debated record of the band, dividing the band’s fans in two distinct groups, one condemning the new direction and the other hailing the band, comparing ATS to Kid A, was a pleasant change for me. Although I didn’t become so presumptuous as to compare it to the hallowed Kid A (about which I know next to nothing, I admit), I liked the synth-heavy, apocalyptic feel. The band seemed not to lose its way among all the electronica.
It was difficult to form any definite idea of the direction LP would be taking after the experimentation of the last two albums, but I expected to see the electronic effects which were the mainstay of ATS.
I was right, but what came out was a horror though.
What LP has produced as ‘Living Things’ should rather have been packaged as ‘Dead and Stale Things’. Rather than getting in a new album, what you get is a zombie version of ATS, a version vacant of any new or substantial ideas or music that it looks hauntingly dead.
The albums starts with “Lost in the Echo”, which, for all the catchiness of its main hook sung by Bennington, loses its sheen as soon as Shinoda starts rapping. The rap is monotonous, and the lyrics are bland in contrast to the razor-sharp rap attacks of Hybrid Theory. In My Remains is a continuation of the blandness, which passes quite unnoticed.
Burning It Down starts off on promising note, though. Though made of the same stuff as other songs, they’ve got the recipe somehow just right enough to be pleasant and engaging to hear. The lyrics don’t really shine, but Shinoda’s verses remind one of good ol’ days of first record, definitely better than those of Lost In The Echo.
Before you start feeling any better, comes probably the worst song of the album. Lies, Greed and Misery is 2:26 minutes of pure agony. I can’t understand what did LP hope to achieve by recording this song. Nominal lyrics, horribly mixed (which does sounds intentional, trying to do some prog thing or what? no fucking idea) chorus. This is so NOT the kind of songs LP should be recording. This is the kind of song, some two-penny pop-rock band looking to sell out in the era of Skrillex and Pitbull should be recording.
I’ll Be Gone is another third one of the similar sounding songs after Lost In The Echo and Burning It Down. While not very good, lyrics make sense and music is clean enough to be averagely likeable. Castle of Glass is an anomaly in being devoid of any electronic torture present throughout the album otherwise. You can breath a sigh of relief for some minutes.
Apparently, LP sadism no bounds in this album. Just as Lies, Greed and Misery tortures you right after Burning It Down, Victimized comes for your throat even before your sigh was complete. While Lies, Greed and Misery was the most pathetic song of the album, this one is literally the worst, pure molten lead for your ears. I don’t know what illusions they had when recording the song, or they were just in bad musical company during the whole thing, this song SUCKS. The quality is so bad, a band like LP couldn’t keep it that low for more than 2 minutes. 😀
After you’ve gone through the two towers of hell, the journey to Mordor is pretty much complete. The rest of the songs don’t take much to go by, and you are barely left in a mood to enjoy them. Roads Untraveled has some good, emotional lyrics, which, staying true to the form, is alternated by the complete lyrical vacuity of Skin To Bone. Until It Breaks is a rap song, sung over the electronic cacophony, and it went completely above my head. There were hints of braggadocio in the lyrics, which isn’t typical of Shinoda usually. Tinfoil is a cute little one-minute instrumental. Powerless, the last song, is surprisingly a good one again, simple and personal lyrics.
Songs like Burn It Down, I’ll Be Gone, Roads Untraveled and Powerless, try to give the album a coherent vision, which the band has talked about in pre-release interviews, although unsuccessfully, as the rest of the songs are too efficient in ripping the album apart.
Overall, the album is unsatisfactory. And jarring. They did all the right experimentation in ATS with electronic beats and synthesizer sound. But they had a vision back then. During the production, LP said they’re going the get all the best stuff from their previous albums and smash them together. Well, the smashing looks more destructive than constructive. You just can’t cut and paste nu-metal and hardcore rap ethics onto electronic sound (unless you’re very very sure of what you’re doing). It’s either Hybrid Theory or A Thousand Suns. But not Living Things.