Island/UMG, 2017


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Twenty years after Incubus’ breakthrough album Glass and six years after their last release If Not Now, When?, the oft-derided hard rockers have returned with their eighth studio album and an evident desire to return to the sound of the old.

This will likely be a welcome change to many fans, as the band’s albums had been steadily growing more mannered and mature since A Crow Left Of The Murder. This isn’t a handicap with journeyman rock bands like this, and indeed Incubus had shown signs of emotional growth and adult rock leanings as early as “Drive.” But their last three albums have only been fitfully entertaining and, at worst, rather generic post-alternative.

So in an attempt to go back to basics, the SoCal band hired EDM star Skrillex to produce this disc and wrote a tight set of songs – 11 tracks, 40 minutes – that consciously recalls their late ‘90s work. There are some short, energetic hard rockers, a couple of slower pop-rock tunes, an instrumental and a brief dash of weirdness (remember Chuck?). It’s everything an Incubus album should be, for better or worse, meaning if you never liked them this won’t change your mind. But if you were a fan, you will be quite satisfied.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Most notably, it seems the guys are having a little fun again. “No Fun,” “Glitterbomb,” and “Nimble Bastard” are a brace of power singles, not unlike how Pearl Jam opened Binaural after the low-key Yield, and if they’re not already on the radio it wouldn’t surprise me to hear at least one of them coming soon. And while songs like “Undefeated” and “State Of The Art” are similar to the slower, more thoughtful Incubus of the last 14 years, their expansion and modern production elements push them into slightly more indie territory. But because they’re still capable arena rockers, the song is sort of a cross between a gutsier Coldplay and Switchfoot (especially Boyd’s sustained vocal note on the bridge toward the end of the song and his reaching-for-the-rafters lyrical soar “I’m not broken / I’m not dead yet / Whoa-oh.”

“Loneliest” is an interesting track that takes the band’s sound in a new, more electronic direction, and it’s a natural fit with Boyd’s voice; it’s not far-fetched to listen to, say, Tame Impala and then segue into the chilly, languid hip-hop/EDM beat of this song. If “No Fun” is their past, then “Loneliest” is their future. “Familiar Faces” updates the band’s Make Yourself album for 2017 to excellent results, condensing everything this band has to say in a tight three-minute package.

Back to the concept of having fun again: the goofy minute-long “When I Became A Man” offers a laugh midway through the disc, a concept unthinkable on ponderous albums like Light Grenades. Meanwhile, the chunky rhythms, Sabbath-tuned guitars, and hippie lyrics of “Love In A Time Of Surveillance” are stoner rock of the best kind, not least because of the hyper-kinetic drum solo that starts the song for absolutely no reason.

And while some bands make entire careers out of slow electronic burbles like “Make No Sound In The Digital Forest,” Incubus is content to leave it as a dull instrumental toward the end of the disc and let it serve as a lead-in to the hard classicist rock of “Throw Out The Map,” which unfortunately squanders its fantastic introduction for a rather generic Incubus verse/chorus. This is the one that should have been instrumental, and maybe the guys will stretch it out in concert. We’ll see.

Point is, 8 shows this longstanding group having a good time and reclaiming their name, and it will be a treat for fans and, perhaps, a way in for newcomers. And if very little here is truly spectacular or groundbreaking, the majority is well-crafted modern journeyman rock.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2017 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island/UMG, and is used for informational purposes only.