Dear Linkin Park,
Your latest release, “Living Things,” is quite different, as are your last two albums, “Minutes to Midnight” and “A Thousand Suns.” This isn’t a complaint. Though I will admit that upon first listening to “Minutes to Midnight,” my immediate first thought was (and I quote), “What the hell was that?!” Your new artistic direction took some getting used to, but it grew on me.
I began to like the use of electronica and cleaner guitar riffs, even if that meant sacrificing the grit and industrial edge that first attracted me to the band’s style. Unlike many of my friends, I did not discover you guys in high school. I wasn’t an angsty teen. I didn’t have (or, at least, didn’t realize at the time) much anger during my teens. I discovered you guys in 2007, my senior year of college, after a break up. It was through your music that I found the permission to get angry.
Fast forward five years and you are still in heavy rotation on my iPod. I still listen to “One Step Closer” when I need to get pumped up, to “Don’t Stay” when I need to get pissed, and to “Breaking the Habit” when I’m creating my own artwork, be it writing or mixed media.
Many people I know were quite disappointed in the direction the band and the music went in. I can’t say I blame them. Change is hard. But I’m honestly very glad to see that while you may have honed a more polished sound, your lyrics are still pretty damn searing. I think that’s what keeps me coming back.
Since ’07, I’ve graduated with an MFA in Poetry. While working on my own pieces and “finding my voice,” I really gained a firm understanding of what it means to be an artist. And then I think of what it must feel like to have pressure from an industry that has brought you wild success…and, come to find out, they just want you to keep producing the same thing. No room for experiments, no room for growth. I’d find that both heart-breaking and maddening. So kudos to you guys for sticking to who you are as artists and as a collective band. Correction: I think it is this kind of risk and artistic integrity that keeps me coming back.
I meant for this to be a straight-up CD review, but the written word tends to be its own beast. For those who have not heard the new album, don’t expect, well, anything. What helped me appreciate this album was to not have expectations, which sounds bad, as if I am asking you to set the bar low. That is not what I am saying. What I am asking is for you (yes, you, the reader) to have open ears and an open heart….wow, that may very well be one of the most cliche phrases I have ever typed. What I mean to say is this: Let the trickling beats and interweaving vocals of Mike and Chester (a staple of this band I’m SO glad they didn’t sacrifice for the album) speak to you. If they don’t, then they don’t. Come back to “Living Things” in a year, two years, even five years. I do think this album has something to say to everyone. I say this as someone who has been steadily listening to this album for about a month and is still finding new things to enjoy: a beat I didn’t hear before, a phrase I had never caught until this moment. Am I saying this CD will change your life? Perhaps not. But could it offer words for an emotion or event you couldn’t utter before? Most likely. Linkin Park is good at that.
Guys (and I speak to the band now), I think you should know this: A few weeks ago, a friend of mine took a poll to see what we’d choose as a theme song if we were involved in a prize fight for our first national title (he’s really into boxing). My first instinct was to go with something by Flyleaf (for the screaming chick power) or Bullet for My Valentine (for the pure rock energy). Then I heard “Living Things” and changed my mind. I put down “Lost in the Echo.” That song may not include a female front woman or rock riffs, but there is a certain strength and tenacity that is so real, so intimidating, so perfect that I’d want nothing else to fly in the face of my opponent. Every time I listen to that song, I imagine myself walking up to the ring, steel-faced (which can be quite amusing if you think about it, since I’m a 5’5″ woman with a pretty thin physique). But seriously, who wouldn’t feel badass walking up to an opponent with these lyrics swirling around?
Test my will / test my heart
Let me tell you how the odds gonna stack up
Ya’ll go hard / I go smart
How’s that working out for y’all in the back, huh?
I’ve seen that frustration
Been crossed and lost and told no
And I’ve come back / unshaken
Let down and lived and let go
So you can let it be known
I don’t hold back I hold my own
I can’t be mapped / I can’t be cloned
I can’t C-flat / it ain’t my tone
I can’t fall back I came too far
Hold myself up and love my scars
Let the bells ring wherever they are
It was a good reminder that your music will always, in some form, be woven into the soundtrack that helps me to take the hits and to deal a few blows of my own.
Thanks for that.