Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review: Incubus - If Not Now, When?

Listen to "Promises, Promises" and "Adolescents" in the For Your Ears Section.

Incubus has come a long way since S.C.I.E.N.C.E. in 1997.  A band that used to rock hard has now transitioned to one that would rather chill on a couch and roll out some tunes.  Actually, in one of their concerts, they brought out a couple couches and all sat down with their acoustic guitars and played one of the best versions of "Pardon Me" I've ever heard.  Looking back to that moment, I am not surprised by their progression to more relaxed music.

One thing I've come to expect from Incubus is that no two albums will ever sound the same.  They have even commented as much, saying, "we hate making the same record twice".  This mentality is probably one of their greatest strengths, but also one of their greatest weaknesses -- at least when it comes to satisfying fans.  It is clear that with every new album, Incubus has somewhat alienated those fans that want another S.C.I.E.N.C.E. -- another hard, kick-ass rock album.  Sadly for them, this will never happen.  If Not Now, When? is a tremendous shift from their original sound.  Others think that Incubus can't seem to find their identity, musically.  Or, that they're so self-loathing, that after two years, they already hate the album they put out.  I whole-heartedly disagree with this.

Progression of sound is a sign of growth and artistry.  Why keep making the same thing when you have the potential to try all sorts of other sounds?  Rather, one can look at each album as an experiment by the band to see what their repertoire of song writing holds.  I read a review of their latest album that said, "whatever made Incubus uniquely Incubus is nowhere to be found here".  My question to that reviewer is if almost every album is different, then what is uniquely Incubus?  My answer is simple.  Incubus is the band that sounds like no other at the time of their release.  I challenge you to go back to every album and find another album that sounds at all like it within two years of its release.  You won't find it.  These guys are true artists -- younger bands aspire to be able to do what these guys can do.

Ok, ok, enough babble.  On to my thoughts of the new album.  I thoroughly enjoyed listening to If Not Now, When?.  Everything about this album is relaxed, especially Brandon's singing.  They also took a minimalist approach to the music, with barely any instrument rising above the others.  A pleasant surprise was Mr. Kilmore, who at one point was the Incubus DJ, showing off his skills on the keyboard.  

The listener is immediately thrown in head first with the title track, the only familiar sound being Brandon's voice as he bellows "It's time..." over this poppy ballad.  The only song on this album that has any connections to their past sound is "Adolescents", which comes late in the track list.  During most of the songs, I found myself conjuring up all sorts of "sunny" imagery.  For some reason, I felt a real sense of optimism while listening to this album.  Really, this album invokes a feeling of honesty coming from the music, almost as if this is the sound the band really wanted to have.  And, that's what music is all about!

The bottom line?  This album is really, really good.  It's not the Incubus of old.  It's not the Incubus of two years ago.  It is the Incubus of now.  The question, however, is (to quote Spaceballs backwards) when will now be then...

You'll be able to buy the album on July 12th here or here.
You can also see an alternate version of my review here.

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