Sound: Enough can't be said about bands that go above and beyond the usual yearly full-length release by putting out little bonuses here and there. Linkin Park is one of those bands, which since it began in 2001, has released EPs full of rare material and future album sneak-peaks to it's fan club Linkin Park Underground. The latest in-between CD called Underground 6 or LPU6 is now even available to non-fan club members through Best Buy stores, but unfortunately it doesn't match the quality work that Linkin Park has done in the past.
While it is still admirable that Linkin Park (vocalist Chester Bennington, vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Mike Shinoda, guitarist Brad Delson, bassist Dave Farrell, turntablist Joseph Hahn, and drummer Rob Bourdon) continues to connect with fans through these EPs, LPU6 just doesn't quite satisfy. The intro track is cool enough, using a primarily instrumental and synthesized basis for it. You hear vocalist Chester Bennington's screams (which apparently are heard and reverse; if heard forward he says, You should brush your teeth and you should wash your hands) a few times toward the tail end of it, which actually acts as an instrument in itself and gels really nicely with the other instruments. It sets a great mood to the EP, but it ends a little too quickly.
Two of the tracks are dedicated to different version of the song Qwerty. It's a catchy number with a really cool guitar intro, but the chorus can be a bit grating. Bennington screams the word lies a little much and it gets a bit tiresome. The following track is a live version of Qwerty from a Japan show back in August, with this version sounding more intense and effective. There's just something about the band's live show that really evokes emotion, and Qwerty loses that monotonous feel during the concert experience.
There are two beautiful ballads on LPU6, and it's on these that Bennington's voice is at its best. Pushing Me Away (Live) is as stripped down as you can get. With primarily just a piano and Bennington's voice, the songs really accentuates how powerful Bennington's singing truly is. Breaking The Habit (Live) begins much of the same way, but transforms almost into a different song when the full band is added in at the end. The chorus on Breaking The Habit does get repetitive quickly, but the addition of the band -- particularly the synth effects -- helps add a new twist that is needed to finish out the song. // 7
Lyrics: A lot of Bennington's inner struggles have been in the public eye, and his lyrics always seem to add a little insight into the emotions he might have been going through at the time. Breaking The Habit seems to put all of those feelings out on the table. He sings, Clutching my cure; I tightly lock the door; I try to catch my breath again; I hurt much more. It's that honesty that is one of the reasons the band has connected so well with its fans.
There's a great contrast between the lyrics that are sung and those that are rapped, but both are high points in the band. Mike Shinoda's rapping proves always entertaining, and the words are downright clever. In Reading My Eyes Shinoda raps, The microphone molesta; The Chevy undresser; Stupid dope fresh tight shit resurrector; Top gun man mod best of the besta; The living MC, peace and resta. If you like your rock free from a more urban flavor, the rapped lyrics might make you cringe. However, there is a lot of creativity that goes into Shinoda's rapping and it's a high point on the latest CD as well. // 9
Overall Impression: It should be said that the musicianship is still excellent on each song on LPU6 and vocalist Chester Bennington's vocals are stronger than ever. The rap-sing-scream style gives Linkin Park a unique sound all its own, even with the other bands that attempt to try the same thing these days. The LPU6 is meant to be a gift to the fans, and it's likely that the most dedicated LP followers will love it. It gives a taste of what the band is working on for the future, which is a great gesture on the part of the band.
In terms of overall listening quality, it wasn't the best that Linkin Park has offered -- but again, it's not necessarily meant to be. While the live shows add a fantastic energy to the shows, the songwriting underneath it all still gets a bit monotonous at times. There is still a huge amount of musical talent in Linkin Park, so it's likely they'll have the know-how to make the full-length record a solid one. // 8