The last time rap-rock had a top 40 presence was 2004. Linkin Park‘s single “Numb” was getting steady radio play but still you could sense the golden age of the genre was ending its half-decade run of radio dominance. So perhaps it was no surprise that when Linkin Park returned in 2007 that their sound had greatly morphed. Gone were the days of rapping and rocking in the same song. Mike Shinoda’s distinctive raps were segregated to a few token tracks while he took a large role as producer. This path continued with the band’s puzzling follow up album, A Thousand Suns. An album full of U2-esque grandiosity, you could tell the band thought they were making a monumental album. Unfortunately what they mostly made was a mess that confused longtime fans as well as critics. The band had re-invited the wheel and a block that was immovable. To all it was obvious that continuing down this path would eventually leave the band as a commercial relic. Perhaps that is why it is no surprise that the band returns to square one on their new album, Living Things.
Perhaps more than any other Linkin Park album, Living Things sounds like a logical predecessor to Hybrid Theory. Gone are the prototypical emo-rock of Minutes to Midnight and the prog-rock of A Thousand Suns. In its place is self-loathing rap-rock that made the band huge.
“Lost in the Echo” is a swaggerific opening track containing some of Shinoda’s best verses since his Fort Minor days. The album’s lead single, “Burn It Down” is clearly more Chester Bennington driven but unlike on the last two outings, Shinoda does not disappear completely. He still manages to spit a little during the chorus.
There are still a few songs Shinoda manages to be cut from. Notably is “I’ll Be Gone,” which feels as though it has several opportunities for verses or at least ad libs from Shinoda.
On the other hand, this album marks the first time that Bennington is cut from songs completely. “Roads Untraveled” is completely sung (not rapped) by Shinoda. While Bennington does get a little background vocals in on the arena-sized “whoa” chorus, the verses are completely Shinoda’s.
It is nice to see Linkin Park finding their equilibrium again and better utilizing all their parts. While the Living Things is much less ambitious than their last two albums, it is sure to win back fans who were lost during the heady A Thousand Suns period.