“I creep hard on imposters and switch styles on a dime….” From time to time a songwriter comes up with a lyric that seems to wrap up his or her whole career into a clear, concise package. Linkin Park delivers one more example of combining intense versatility and experimentation with consistency on their fifth studio release, Living Things. Where so many artists and bands are criticized for changing styles between and within albums, Linkin Park have made that adaptation—to borrow a phrase—an “often imitated, never duplicated” part of their trademark.
As M.C. Mike Shinoda claims on the album’s tenth track, “Until It Breaks,” there are no shortage of style shifts, tempo shifts, or mood shifts on Living Things but where this could be a recipe for chaos, it works for the sextet—perhaps because it always has. It is no secret to anyone even superficially familiar with Linkin Park and the clear modus operandi they have established that they are disinterested in complying with standards or fitting a mold. Linkin Park has long been a group of trailblazers, creating their own blend of hard rock and rap, nu metal, and intensely melodic electronics.
Living Things wages war on convention. There is a feeling of combat laced through the melodies and more than just a feeling in the lyrics, as Shinoda repeats images of armory, soldiers and battle in nearly every track of Living Things, save for the album’s epilogue. The single minute instrumental “Tinfoil” glides seamlessly into the somber, melancholic closer, “Powerless”—the two tracks actually sharing a piano chord in between.
From the first track on Living Things, “Lost in the Echo,” Linkin Park come out swinging (or shooting) as the embattled tone of the album suggests, and power through the album’s first seven tracks until “Roads Untraveled” offer a temporary cease fire. Perhaps a holiday cease fire. As is so often the case in real battle, the Living Things war reaches the peak of its ferocity just beforehand with singer Chester Bennington’s inimitably screamed rasp dragging us through the short, two-minute “Victimized.”
“Burn It Down,” the album’s fourth track, was an early favorite but has gained serious competition with each new spin of the album. As I write this I am inclined to say it would be easier to name a low-light but that really isn’t true either. Every song on Living Things has something to offer, whether you have been with Linkin Park since Hybrid Theory, as I have been, or you have only just fallen into the pull of their gravitational center. In only a few short days, I have learned Shinoda’s rap at the core of “Burn It Down,” found myself dancing with abandon to “Lies Greed Misery,” and stopped to survey the post-destruction landscape through “Powerless.” It is well worth the buy for Linkin Park fans as well as for anyone looking for an album consistent in its ability to hit hard and fast.
Living Things, the fifth studio album from California-based Linkin Park, will be available in mp3 and CD formats where available on June 26, 2012.