Friday, 29 June 2012

Review: Linkin Park - LIVING THINGS

 Well, that's one hell of a week I've come staggering out of. This is the first piece of writing I've done for ROARF in which I am no longer under the control and suspicion of the High School of Dundee. This week saw the final four days as our lives as school kids which has taken up the past thirteen years of my life, ten of which where spent in Dundee. I leave behind a million memories and experiences and some of the greatest people I've ever meant. Apart from the part where I see them all again, just like I will next weekend for T in the Park. YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!! Anyway, I'm now leaving school life behind with a warm heart and as I enter the rest of my life, well, Ramblings of a Rock Fan is coming with me. So, let's get up and running again by looking at the angrily-titled LIVING THINGS, the latest offering by Linkin Park, a band that was loved by... so... many people... from... school. (Cries)

 It's been impossible for Linkin Park to avoid criticism of some kind throughout their career. While their first two albums, the platinum-selling Hybrid Theory and further multi-platinum selling Meteora where panned by high brow critics and later on the band themselves for consisting only of structurally repetitive songs fueled only by teenage angst, their synth-heavy venture into the unknown that was displayed on 2010's A Thousand Suns represented a serious progression from the band but was slammed by fans that desired a further collection of angry alt-metal songs (Maybe they should seek anger management.) who made dramatic claims that Linkin Park was no longer the same band that they had fallen in love with on Hybrid Theory. It's these claims that have allowed the band to fall in love with their riff-led element that they banished in 2010 and so, to go back to making hook filled rock songs while also expanding upon the progression that A Hundred Suns displayed, LIVING THINGS is quite possibly Linkin Park's biggest challenge yet.

 With the basic intention for LIVING THINGS from the point of view of Linkin Park to be to bring together the best elements of all their albums and bring them together, success on their part can be seen right from opener LOST IN THE ECHO. Bringing together immersive synthesized backdrops that reveal co-frontman Mike Shinoda's later influences and love for synth-heavy alt rock acts in the vain of LCD Soundsystem and Metronomy effortlessly while also bringing in the pouncing hooks that and crunching riffs that made Hybrid Theory the biggest selling debut album the biggest selling debut album of the 21st Century.

 With the constant appearance of absorbing synth backdrop which contain either a immersive smoothness with crystalline production from the ever-dynamic Rick Rubin as seen in the likes of lead single BURN IT DOWN, the chillingly dramatic ROADS UNTRAVELED and CASTLE OF GLASS, which reveals the band's Meteora influence by sounding like Numb revisited with a greater level of subtlety and sophistication.

 It also allows for extra levels of a hard-hitting crunch to go along with the returning attack of Brad Delson's shredding, as the crispy backdrops give an extra sense of furious velocity and indestructibility to the highly awesome LIES GREED MISERY which fans of Sleigh Bells (who don't seem to be easy to come across) should fall for as well as giving VICTIMIZED the kind of backdrop that finally makes Shinoda's rapping feel pretty badass, while the song's riff led counterparts make the screaming of Chester Bennington sound as enraged as ever.

 So, indeed, Linkin park achieve bringing together elements from all the stages of their musical career into one album. The metallic pounce of Hybrid Theory and Meteora are there, the tender hard rock melodies of Minutes to Midnight are there and the lush alt rock soundscaping of A Thousand Suns is present, but does it actually work? A Thousand Suns was practically created to serve as the opposite of the first two albums that became pivotal works of the now long dead nu metal genre, so can such a dichotomy in musical styles co-exist within the one frame of work? Sometimes you may find yourself less convinced. Hearing the ethereal grace of IN MY REMAINS being led by the vocalist who is best known for screaming "SHUT UP WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU!" feels a little weird at times and makes the performance feel out of place and I suppose that such a work of music from a band that when they started off, created a musical style that served as the opposite of all things graceful and subtle is at times hard to get your head around.

 In many ways, this album can have a cynical view. Maybe while Linkin Park had lost the amount of fans that they did after A Thousand Suns, they needed to do something that would bring them back while still managing to remain progressive. Perhaps the guitars and return of structure is made to be a crowd pleaser. Perhaps this is so they can still be the biggest band in the world and also be sophisticated.

 And if all this is the case,  well, it's certainly pleased me. Linkin Park have always been a band capable of creating hooks, but the fact that they are still able to now in a manner that sounds more crisp, more sharp and fresher than ever heard makes LIVING THINGS a force of total astonishment. There's an equal amount of heavy riffing and big choruses as there is of dynamic backdrop and immersive production. There are many who will disagree and many who still believe that Linkin Park is no longer the band that they fell in love with but as I take this happy little blog into the big bad real world and out of school with me, I leave with a band that was loved by lots of people I knew from school with their strongest work to date.

Linkin Park's LIVING THINGS is out now via Warner Bros.

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