The good news is, my 16 year old self is really psyched about the fact that I’m listening to Incubus. The bad news (or good news, if you ask him) is that this band sounds the exact same as they did then, almost to a greater extent than is even possible, and even without that awesome trippy Einziger distortion from “When it Comes.”
Ok. I realize it’s ridiculous that I’m reviewing Incubus here, and that I didn’t examine the New Pornographers album released this month. Here’s some food for thought, though. The Pornos actually ripped off an INCUBUS riff for the albeit excellent “Failsafe” (the source material of the latter band being the excellent “Warning”). Plus, I just want a new A.C. Newman solo album.
I will always be a fan though of Incubus’ production. Brendan O’Brien, who worked on aforementioned “Warning”’s Morning View, is perhaps my favorite knob-twirler ever, dating back to his work with Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots where he took each of those two bands which could have veered toward bombast and overproduction and imbued in them a sense of humor, and what’s more, some edge, some BITE. “Circles” really crunches, on Morning View (though ironically that’s viewed as their mellow album, which to their credit, and this is an extolling Incubus-ism cited frequently by those laudatory, came out during the heyday of nu metal, and hence represents a significant cultural anomaly).
As far as this 8 crap goes, in my quest to find something listenable, I get the thought that maybe I should just assimilate my own existence with like constant animalistic aggression and chaos… I mean Trump is president and the world is about to end, why not?
Luckily, though, the album certainly begins to build up some steam after a couple of early leaks. “State of the Art” conjeals into something beginning to resemble an organized artistic statement — it just seems Brandon Boyd’s lost some of his own swagger. This is a shame, too, ‘cause there’s really nothing to complain about with the production of this album. The fuzzy, grand but digestible tone of the guitar calls to mind early Everclear (being a little harder than Third Eye Blind, perhaps) and Mike Einziger sounds like he’s using a steel pick during the compelling, moody middle eight of this song. Too bad the song is ruined by some descpicable hand claps — the way in my opinion they ruined Sia by making her like an ugly (meaning artistically ugly, and for that reason better, having nothing to do with her appearance-grounded aesthetics) version of Taylor Swift. Incubus today is a band every bit with its finger on the pulse of the median pop style. Credit them with, considering the fact of America’s political climate of today, at least getting fu**in’ loud, even if they’re not as vocally dissenting as they were on A Crow Left of the Murder… (who could be, for that matter). “Glitterbomb” works pretty well until the flaccid, androgynous prechorus — is he channeling his inner David Bowie here? Oh, he actually is. Yeah, he just died. Sad. Still, I liked the old Incubus that actually walked an edge, and told me how to live. They certainly sound aged here, though as always the production is great and the drummer Jose Pasillas, who has been with the band since the start, is on the top of his game. “When I Became a Man” is a goofy mid-album interlude very much like Brendan O’Brien would institute with things like “Pry, to” and “Wet My Bed,” and this is no small mark for a band who traditionally are accused of taking themselves too seriously, which can sometimes be a grounded claim. After this, though, we get back to rocking: “Familiar Faces” is a taut pop tune before “Love in the Time of Surveillance,” a huge, uncompromising caterwaul of awesomeness, featuring a slow, evil metal riff and a Brandon Boyd vocal which is just street-tough enough to avoid its usual emo territory. By this point the album is definitely worth the listen, although the lyrics continue to be sort of a clunker: “I will embrace my assailant / Kill them with kindness and patience”. Still, the chorus comes back in, and I can’t really understand the words but they sound markedly better for their spite and sharpness. And I hate to use the old cliche that “8 wont’ win any new Incubus fans but should retain the ones they have,” but dag nabbit, I’m gonna use it anyway.