Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Incubus - If Not Now, When? (2011) Album Review

Album cover.
So the new album leaked. Great news for rabid fans, but unfortunately sad, sad news for the band. If Not Now, When? is still set for a July 12th release, a mighty long-ass time away, which makes the album 3 months premature. I imagine they would have done a couple more things in preparation for the release in July, perhaps a second single, the unveiling of the album cover, but this just screws everything up. (Update: the album has since been released at this point)

Anyway, I'm kind of torn up with the new record. On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the album. On the other, I'm confused about what exactly this band wants to be. The album is sunny. It's poppy. It's pleasant. It's minimalist. It's dreamy. I was able to conjure up all sorts of vivid imagery in my head whilst listening to it. And most importantly, I feel a sense of honesty emanating from the music. That's what I got from my first listen, and if that's not why I listen to music in the first place, I don't know why I bother listening. This is all quite premature really, so let me say that I'm reluctant about writing all these praises as I go about this review. I could very well regret this in the coming weeks, but what the hey - I'll just hit myself in the head in another post for being such an impressionable fool.

As for the band, Brandon's singing is much more relaxed here, and in effect - less annoying. Glad to see him using the lower register of his voice more frequently in the album. Also the rhythm section sounds more focused and fused in this one, with barely any instrument rising above the others. Mike's minimalistic use of the guitar is splendid. Ben, who's the most technically proficient in the group, is good as always. It's good Jose ditched the high treble sound of his drums. But the biggest props go to Mr. Kilmore, the once-upon-a-time Incubus DJ who has grown to become a pretty proficient keyboardist.

If you have been following this band like I have, you'd know its most scathing critics are its own fans. The general sentiment is that Incubus used to rock. The "we need another SCIENCE" crowd, hopeful that each news of an upcoming album will bring back the days of dreadlocks and baggy pants. Sad to say, this fan demographic has been consistently let down with each release after S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (I feel like an idiot putting all those dots just to preserve canon). There's also a certain number of fans for each release, and they always get upset with succeeding albums. Everytime. But the band doesn't seem to care.

L-R: Ben Kenney, Jose Pasillas II, Chris Kilmore, Mike Einziger, Brandon Boyd. Photo taken from Spin.com
This album isn't any different. In fact, the 'alienation' this band seems to be really good at is even worse here. They've completely lost their identity in this album. Some probably won't mind it, but no doubt most fans will definitely be frowning this tremendous shift in sound. The band may have written good songs, and its longevity remains to be seen if people won't get sick of the album in the coming weeks, but yes --- whatever made Incubus uniquely Incubus is nowhere to be found here. This literally sounds like a different band. To me it feels like they're still battling with their own identity as a band after all these years, from their shift from funk to nu-metal to alternative, etc. Most bands would have settled, but this band doesn't seem to run out of gas. Whether it's a good or bad thing, I have a strong feeling they've become a band grown accustomed to self-loathing, eventually finding whatever reasons to hate their own work after a short span of time - hence the famous "we hate making the same record twice" comments from the band members. I'm not really sure of those allegations to be honest - the masochism and whatnot. Perhaps it is just artistry at work and the need for artists to have some leeway or 'wiggle room', but in this band's case, the room is a freaking gymnasium. Seriously, I think this band needs some kind of consistency, at least for the sake of keeping their remaining fan base in familiar territory. They need to sit still for a couple of records lest they want their fans' heads spun out in utter confusion.

Overall, and regardless how this conflicts this band's background, I think it's a good Incubus album. And if you want to enjoy it, listen to it for what it is, not what you think this band is. (And listen to it with a decent pair of earphones.)


Adolescents Music Video:

PS: I want to be the first person to pick up an acoustic guitar and cover Defiance. Seriously.