Release Date: Jul 12, 2011
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Metal, Funk Metal
Brandon Boyd’s game has decayed a bit. On his band’s first album in five years, the Incubus heartthrob — who once tugged at TRL viewers’ heartstrings with the riffed-out sugar shot "Stellar" — is telling his beloved she’s "light like a feather, bright like a dying star" on "Switchblade." Just as Boyd’s lyrics have gone a little soft, so Incubus’ seventh album dilutes the hard-edged funk rock of their early-2000s peak popularity into slick, inert ripples of interchangeable power pop. Incubus retain some of their early, macabre nerdiness (the harmony-bedecked "Tomorrow’s Food" reminds us of our dirt-bound mortality), but, for all the energy, the melodies fail to ignite.
Shake off your preconceptions, Incubus' new one will shock even the die-hards... When played back-to-back each of Incubus’ seven studio albums sound completely different yet, somehow, they still all sound like Incubus. ‘If Not Now, When?’ marks another progression in the band’s 20-year career, but if you’re hoping for an album full of tracks like lead single ‘Adolescents’ then you’re in for a bit of a surprise… Our advice to you? On the first few plays don’t listen to this album as an ‘Incubus’ record – clear your mind and judge the music on its own merit because even you diehards will be shocked.
Seizing their extended half-decade hiatus as an opportunity to reinvent themselves, Incubus dive headfirst into a comfortable middle age on their seventh album, If Not Now, When? This is no crisis, this is deliberate: with the assistance of producer Brendan O’Brien, they’ve turned down the guitars and ratcheted up the synthesizers, trading roiling angst for occasional spells of moodiness, deciding to settle into a warm, textured adult pop that occasionally recalls nothing so much as Neil Finn at his spaciest. Incubus aren’t completely ready to become an AAA act -- they’re spry enough to sound convincing on the clatter of “Switchblade,” the guitars don’t soothe so much as evoke desolate landscapes, vocalist Brandon Boyd still favors some unsettling lyrical imagery -- but the end result is an album on a shaded, comfortable grayscale, music that’s suitably mature yet sidesteps stultifying notions of middlebrow class. .
It’s been five years since their last full-length and, in that time, members of California alt-rockers Incubus have studied music composition at Harvard University, released solo material and produced offspring. With this expanding of horizons, some sort of reinvention was expected, and perhaps needed, especially after 2006’s somewhat tired Light Grenades. However, for anyone still holding on for S.C.I.E.N.C.E.
The Incubus of 2011 is a very different beast than the one that saturated MTV and alternative radio around the turn of the millennium, with the band putting their giddy genre-bending exercises behind them in pursuit of a more subdued, sober sound. And while If Not Now, When? sounds even more like the mature-sounding album their last two releases tried so hard to be, the group has lost touch with almost all of their best characteristics. Too many of these tracks drearily amble by, leaving little or no impression.
Where the hell has Incubus been? It’s been over four years since we nodded our heads to “Anna Molly” off of 2006’s Light Grenades, and in that time away, the band has managed to do a complete 180. Call it growth, call it maturity, call it whatever you may like, but when listening to their new album, If Not Now, When?, it’s difficult deciding exactly what to call it, as it leaves some head-scratching, utter confusion, and denial. Maybe this was a little more obvious than that, though.
I’ve always been a sucker for Incubus. Even after Light Grenades’ horrific implosion of overzealous self-production, I gave the SoCal residents the benefit of the doubt, not only because they made four awesome albums in a row but because I also had this sneaking suspicion they knew they had failed. Sure, “Dig” was a radio success, but in interviews, Brandon Boyd just seemed to have that embarrassed look in his eye that said, “I’m sorry for ‘Earth to Bella’ and admit those are the worst lyrics I’ve ever written.” So when Incubus released their new single “Adolescents” on their website earlier this year, I was hopeful.
It may seem paradoxical, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility for a band to become popular at precisely the wrong time. Around the turn of the century, their canny blend of heavy rock and hip-hop pushed Incubus towards mainstream success. Unfortunately, that was also the dark time in music history when nu-metal became inexplicably popular.
Californian quintet abandons its rock roots with sleepy results. Camilla Pia 2011 Incubus used to be a rock band, right? You wouldn’t know it from listening to them these days. Seventh studio opus If Not Now, When? is a sedate, pristinely produced offering, closer in spirit to the U2s and Coldplays of ‘alternative’ music than their early heavy-riffing counterparts.