Incubus If Not Now, When? Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

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. Not a crime, of course, if it’s done with intelligence, killer melodic know-how and some kind of tangible emotion, but Incubus don’t manage any of these with their latest offering. Subsequently we fully expect reactions to it to vary from peeved and disillusioned (fans) to passed-out in a coma (the rest of the world).

Mid-tempo, canyon-sized epics fill the record, driven by soaring soulful vocals from nu-metal pin-up-boy Brandon Boyd who, as most middle-aged, tattooed American rockers tend to do, has developed a bad case of the hippie lyrics. Reports that he still has that infamous six-pack, however, remain unconfirmed. "We are all tomorrow’s food, today," he croons on Tomorrow’s Food – no doubt some existential angst-inspired comment on the, like, modern world, or something – and "I was lost but now I am found" on In the Company of Wolves, which despite its incredibly cringe-worthy storytelling is actually one of the album’s more interesting efforts musically, thanks to an unexpectedly dark breakdown and some scratchy, squealing riffage.

Respite too comes from the orchestral flutters of Thieves, Isadore’s snarling guitars and Switchblade’s opening rhythmic attack: these tracks give the album’s plodding, soul-searching air a much-needed injection of energy. But it’s not nearly enough. While clearly Boyd and company couldn’t carry on making the same kind of music forever – and we applaud them for experimenting – by trying something new and essentially cleaning up their sound by slowing it all down, they reveal a staggering lack of creativity and ideas at the heart of what they do. The 2011 incarnation of Incubus is a depressingly dull and sterile proposition and, really, we wouldn’t wish these bland wet blanket anthems on anyone.

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