I couldn't help but smile while listening to "Living Things". Not necessarily because I enjoyed the album, but it honestly amazes me that a band can spend a career chasing the tail and picking the pocket of the ever-changing mainstream, yet still end up beating the same horse album after album. While LINKIN PARK threatened to become interesting with the experimental "A Thousand Suns", that step outside of the box must have scared the shit out of the band as this newest batch of tunes is firmly planted in familiar territory.
Don't let the digital whitewash fool you into thinking that LINKIN PARK is pushing any envelopes, they've simply taken the polish rap-rock and nu-metal crunch of the first two albums and replaced it all with the Skrillex-infected synth-driven rock and electro-pop that have become this week's flavor. Outside of the re-surfacing, very little has changed here. The huge, hooky choruses are still the focal point of every song. Mike Shinoda's generic and suburbanite rap verses still weave in and out of Chester Bennington's melodic croon and the song structures are by-the-book as ever.
At 36 minutes, "Living Things" won't take too much time out of your day. Interestingly enough, the songs are all timed perfectly for radio play (Hmmmm). Opener "Lost in the Echo" and "Burn It Down" both come across as attempts to recreate early hits like "Crawling" and "One Step Closer", but neither are able burrow their way into the memory banks like the latter two songs did over a decade ago. For your daily dose of socially acceptable pseudo-rage, LINKIN PARK offers "Lies, Greed, Misery" and the scream-y "Victimized". At least the Trent Reznor-esque "Skin To Bone" and electronic ballad "Powerless" inject enough mood and emotion into the mix to give "Living Things" some sense of substance. The folksy nod to DEPECHE MODE that is "Castle Of Glass" is another point of interest on an otherwise uninspired and predictable album.
To LINKIN PARK's credit, they've learned, over the course of five albums, how to put play to their strengths. Bennington's voice and melodic sensibilities are a commanding and welcome presence on each one of these twelve songs and the band has mastered the art of crafting a catchy and palatable tune. These qualities would make for make for a good, or at least interesting, album if "Living Things" possessed any real sense of adventure, but the majority of this record feels like the band was playing it safe and pushing for sales over substance.