For a musical act, a “Best Of” record can be a way of alienating fans in the pursuit of fulfilling record company obligations, or a way to buy more time between albums, or just a way to postpone creating new work. Oftentimes including a new song or two, the “Best Of” release throws a bone at the fans, which cannot be more demeaning, especially for those who favor purchasing a tangible product than buying fragments of a record virtually.
Monuments and Melodies is something that a typical “Best Of” is not. This compilation makes sure that fans of Incubus are as pleased as casual observers of the band. Disc 1 – Monuments – is an absolute delight for a layperson to the band. Without complicating things (other than arranging the tracks non-chronologically), this half of the album focuses entirely on the singles released off of the band’s later works. This bunch of songs (including two new cuts, “Black Heart Inertia” and “Midnight Swim”) is as accessible as the band gets, so much so that it totally eschews cuts from albums in the band’s early albums S.C.I.E.N.C.E., Enjoy Incubus and Fungus Amongus, which are less mature.
Disc 2 – Melodies – caters to fans in as effective a fashion as Monuments does to casual listeners. While most of the tracks are unreleased, they are far from incomplete. This collection of rarities isn’t a B-sides “leftovers” album aspiring to appease fans while the band members enjoy a hiatus to focus on their personal lives. Any track picked blindly on this disc is deserving enough to fit on a regular album. Although not as experimental as some of the band’s works, the straightforward rock songs on Melodies find the band in great form and from the pulsating juggernaut of “Where The Vultures Feed” to the dreamy psychedelic trip of “Punch Drunk,” this is a disc with enough twists to keep it interesting.
It seems as though Incubus has played it safe with both the halves of this record. But with the absence of music from early on in the band’s career from Monuments and exclusion of demos, live tracks, alternate takes, etc. from Melodies, the band has created two great albums with the best songs in their vault, released or unreleased. This is a dream album for buyers who aren’t all that familiar with the band’s works, but equally so to those that are only too familiar with it.