Words By: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: May 12th, 2015, via Island Records
It has been a while since we’ve heard from Incubus, since their last album, If Not Now, When? in 2011. After a tour promoting the album, the band has taken a little break, with the exception of a few standalone shows. Singer Brandon Boyd has focused on his art, as well as releasing an album with producer Brendan O’Brien titled Sons Of The Sea in 2013. Lead Guitarist, Mike Einziger, enrolled at Harvard University for musical composition, and has recently dove into song writing, including orchestral pieces (his nine part, Stravinsky inspired piece, End.>Vacuum was highly acclaimed), movie scores, aiding Hans Zimmer on music for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and took to writing and producing pop songs, most notably being Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” in 2013. Incubus’ newest release, Trust Fall (Side A), is the first of a pair of albums set for a 2015 release date and looks to take Incubus back to their roots, straying from a softer direction they have taken on their previous two albums. Continue reading for a track by track breakdown of Trust Fall (Side A).
“Trust Fall” – The title track was originally debuted live at KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas last December. “Trust Fall” is as good live as it is on record, and makes for a great opening tune. Starting with a mellow, arpeggiated electric guitar, Boyd’s voice comes in, layered and harmonized, singing the chorus line, “It’s only a trust fall”. From there the rest of the band comes in, kicking it up a notch, with distorted guitar shredding in between the bands rhythmic stops. The verse is a solid Incubus groove; smooth and mellow with some of Einziger’s more tasteful guitar accompanying Boyd’s melody, over the tight rhythm section of drummer José Pasillas and bassist Ben Kenney. Like traditional Incubus form, the chorus ignites into a punk rock influenced explosion of energy, led in by a pulsing buildup into an epic halftime feel. In is in the chorus where Einziger’s guitar takes a back seat and plays with a cleaner, funkier effect. After a second chorus, the song repeats the intro section with additional elements from the bass and drums which add a sense of growing intensity to the song. Rather than head into another verse, they jump right into a final chorus, again with added elements, including an extended section which gives the song one last kick of energy before the song goes into another halftime feel, and slowing down into decrescendo in both volume and fullness until Boyd’s voice is but a whisper. “Trust Fall” is a fun song, and a clear step towards the more alternative sound Incubus is known for.
“Make Out Party” – Weirdest song on the record? Yes! The instrumental parts have a very dark tone to them, very distorted, dissonant, and fuzzy, but in come Boyd’s vocals with a high pitched, soft melody. The contrast is a tad jarring at first, but sits better after hearing it a few times. The chorus features a more cohesive tone between the band, building of the sludgy guitar riff of the verse. The solo is even stranger than the first time hearing the first verse; is that Einziger’s guitar with an array of effected pedals? A synthesizer? A theremin? I am really not all that sure as to what it is, but it resembles the melody sung by Boyd in that it greatly opposes the grunge like guitar chugging in the background. The ending is a direct combination of the two main sections mentioned above, bringing back the dark textures fused with the falsetto from Boyd.
“Absolution Calling” – The first single, released in mid-February, starts off with a modern electronically arpeggiated chord, which is shortly followed with a muted, edgy bass line from Kenney along with calming, open chords from Einziger. Boyd’s smooth voice shortly comes in, singing a line, and in a call and response fashion, a highly distorted guitar riff can be heard between lines. Pasillas plays an intentionally disjointed beat, placing emphasis on the offbeat, which adds a funky sense of cohesion to the different elements. The song does an excellent song of building intensity without adding musical elements. For example, the second half of the first chorus adds a backing vocal track, but is played without drums. The second chorus adds in a full sounding drum track. Before we can get to the next chorus, there is a breakdown, showcasing a melodic guitar solo and a tight groove. The third and final chorus an electronic sample, similar to that in the intro, can be heard in the background, and the backing vocals are more prominent, providing rich harmonies. Boyd’s voice is raised an octave and is belting. For such a steady escalation in the music, the song ends rather abruptly making for an anticlimactic conclusion, which I feel could have benefited from a funk meets hard hitting rock, old school Incubus instrumental section circa Morning View era. Despite that, “Absolution Calling” is a well written song, which demonstrates the talent of each member of Incubus.
“Dance Like You’re Dumb” – Much like the title would have you think, “Dance Like You’re Dumb” is not a simple pop influenced tune. Instead it is a fast paced, rhythmic, hard hitting Incubus song you would expect to hear on Morning View. Driven forward by an edgy, unique riff from Einziger, which can be heard throughout most of the song, the song goes from feeling very simple and straightforward to very funky with the addition of a very dirty groove from Pasillas. Boyd’s vocal line takes more of a quasi-rap similar to that of Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The song features a highly distorted, effected guitar solo and followed by a bridge where Boyd takes the backing vocals behind a group of gospel singers you’d expect to hear in a New Orleans church. The end of the song, and subsequently the end of Trust Fall (Side A) goes out with a bang with a repetitive heavy guitar riff, allowing for some larger than life drum fills in the space provided. Although not a pop tune in the slightest, “Dance Like You’re Dumb” will make you get up on your feet, celebrating Incubus’ choice to return to their original sound of the 90’s.
By introducing modern electronic elements along with reintroducing what fans would refer to as the “old school Incubus” feel, Incubus have found their stride again, making the music of Trust Fall (Side A) some of their best work in the last ten years. While not a full indulgence into their funky, edgy, alternative roots, this is a step into that direction, and a strong improvement from the softer, less experimental forms their previous few albums have taken. Trust Fall (Side A) is an excellent example of what a modern alternative rock record can be. Hopefully Incubus choose to continue with this style on their upcoming follow up album, Trust Fall (Side B), expected later this year. Incubus will perform at Echo Beach on July 29th as part of Edgefest along with the Deftones!
1: Trust Fall
2: Make Out Party
3: Absolution Calling
4: Dance Like You’re Dumb