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.


Beverly Kho said...

Great review! I'll link this over to my blog. Cheers!


matthew.lee.farmer said...

I've been a fan since the "Make Yourself" era. The number one thing I like about each album release (including this one) is that their sound is never consistent. You might say their inconsistency IS their sound.

My music tastes change from year to year, and I usually think that I've essentially outgrown them. But then, their new album comes out and it pretty much catches up to my new tastes.

If they were to release an album that wasn't "alienating", I would be pretty disappointed.

tingkagol said...

That makes two of us (although I consider Light Grenades to be a 'miss'). But the point is it doesn't apply to most people.

cb02161989 said...

Precisely. It applies to them. That's one crucial constant in Incubus that has allowed them to transcend their peers in the music world.

Shane said...

Great review I completely agree with everyone. Light Grenades was the first time i was not completely satisfied with incubus mainly because of ballets that i felt missed their mark. So you would think a album of ballet-like material would be the end of incubus but some how they created this work of art. Slow is not my style but the subtle complexities on this album are enough to make you fall in love despite everything in you screams its wrong

David said...

Incubus is progressive. I have been a fan since fungus among us us and honestly from that album to science was a very different. They were more of a metal band with a DJ (comparable to sugar ray or limp bizkit). The progression is their thing. I felt that light grenades was a little disappointing and hope (as many did or still do) that their old style would return. The major shift in their style I noticed when Dirk lance left the band. A crow left of the murder came out and that was the first album when some songs i really didn't want to listen to. Through all of this they are still on of my favorite bands and a group of very talented musicians. I haven't heard anything off the new album other then Adolescents, but I like that song, but It's been a long time since I heard a new Incubus song. Looking forward to the release.

VJ Gonzales said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VJ Gonzales said...

Great Post Davey...Fan pud ko Incubus way back HS... ;-)

illegal said...

i usually start really liking an incubus album about a year after it comes out, where i find myself coming back to it having not been crazy about it in the first place.

this one is different somehow, at first listen i was overwhelmingly disappointed, and then now find myself falling in love with a new song each day. it started with thieves, then isadore... promises, and today it's wolves.

it's pretty contagious actually, but first you definitely need to leave your expectations at the door. my only real disappointment is for the band's sake that it leaked so early.

tingkagol said...

I did not have a similar experience, but I used to think "Switchblade" was really out of place. Now I can't get enough of it. Kind of reminds me of a Radiohead song, but not quite. And that chorus is damn cool.

Dan said...

Why SHOULD every album sound the same? Does an artist paint the same picture twice? Music is a very momentary and "present" phenomenon. Your mood changes from day to day, month to month, year to year; as well as your outlook on life and your self-concept. I haven't heard the new album yet, but I am dying to. I'm waiting to buy this album the old fashioned way on the day it releases because of my respect for these artists. I love the new sound they have been settling into since the 2nd disc of Monuments & Melodies, which I think is somewhat of a pre-curser to the album's new sound. I'm not trying to attack you in any way, it could be interpreted as that, merely just sharing my opinion in response to your great review

chris said...

It's this ability to switch it up and offer something different with every album is the reason I love Incubus. I think it is true indication of their talent and musical creativity. If you take into consideration the members of this band and the things that they are involved in away from Incubus i.e. Brandon's art, Mike going to Harvard, Ben's music, etc. their minds are entirely to active to create the same sound twice. Creativity is Incubus' most obvious and strongest characteristic. To abandon that would go contradict what they stand for. In my opinion, when compared to the rest of the music industry that consistently put out the same stuff, with exception of a few, Incubus provides music fans a much needed breath of fresh air.

Criodain said...

Listening to Light Grenades right now, and I don't think it's a miss at all. It's pretty good in my opinion.
I am a fan of Mike's guitar playing and tones, and what I have heard so far of the new album, it ain't like previous Incubus albums.
I don't like so called fans looking for them to make SCIENCE over and over, find their niche and just rehash it for a quick buck and more fans.
I admire them for at least trying something new, so I will give this a chance. I will listen to it as an album of songs that happens to be recorded by Incubus, as opposed to what I expect Incubus should sound like.

charlotte said...

great review! I really enjoyed this album. did any of you get a chance to see them on incubus hq live? it has some awesome performances http://www.incubushqlive.com/

Real Gone said...

Hmmm. You can read my review of 'INN,W?' here