Words By: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: April 21st, 2017 via Island Records
Incubus are back for their first release since last year’s EP, Trust Fall(Side A); half of an album which was supposed to be followed up later in 2016 with a second side that failed to materialize. Instead, Incubus chose to regroup and divert their attention to 8, the band’s- you guessed it- eighth full length studio record and first complete set of work since 2011’s If Not Now, When?.
8 opens with “No Fun”, a track which certainly has a fun feel to it through its simplicity and signifies the bands return to straight up rock ‘n’ roll; however, instead of being unique and experimental as Incubus are known for, the song feels a touch generic and a cliché attempt of grabbing the spot for top party rock song of the summer. The lead single and second track, “Nimble Bastard”- strange music video aside- is a significantly better song in almost every regard. While it certainly follows “No Fun” in the modern rock vein, it has a unique flair to it, largely from Brandon Boyd’s vocals and the guitar tones and styling by Mark Einziger.
That being said, 8 spends much time straying from rock for something that resembles modern pop with some interesting guitar work. “Undefeated” is one of the main songs in this form, and even Einziger sparse and dissonant guitar and Boyd’s incredibly vast vocal range cannot save it from being little more than mediocre. Similarly, the electronically driven “Loneliest” seems like it should be on a Brandon Boyd solo album for the lack of any real energy from the rest of the band, who seem to have been sacrificed for the sake of modernity and digital textures. Both “State Of The Art” and “Glitterbomb”- while sharing elements of rock and featuring more of a traditional Incubus feel (especially the breakdown at the end of “Glitterbomb” which features one of the most hard hitting riffs across the whole album) – also fall into a more pop driven direction, but they stand high above the other pop tracks discussed.
Without a doubt, Incubus is an alternative rock band. 8 does not do that statement justice by how much it caters to trying to fit in with much of today’s pop drenched indie “rock”- even typing those last four words made me cringe. 8 would have been a much stronger release should Incubus further pursued the thought of making a rock record, or perhaps made 8 into the mythical side B to Trust Fall, consisting of “Nimble Bastard”, “Glitterbomb”, “No Fun”, and the closing three tracks, “Love In A Time Of Surveillance”, “Make No Sound In The Digital Forest”, and “Throw Out The Map”. Of the albums eleven songs, these six are quite enjoyable, exciting, and unique; but to get to them, you have to weed out the rest. Of this short list, it is the final three that are the best. “Love In A Time Of Surveillance” kicks off with an absolutely killer riff- one definitely inspired by Tom Morello– before diving into a sludgy and hazy crawl. The song also starts with a larger than life drum fill; the first, and most, interesting thing that José Pasillas does across 8; a shame considering how great and unique of a rock drummer that he is. “Make No Sound In The Digital Forest” switches up the pace with a jazz fusion influenced instrumental track before heading back into one more final rocker on “Throw Out The Map”, a track that returns Incubus back to their early roots of crunching power chords, funky and offbeat rhythms, and Boyd’s soft but energetic voice providing a nice juxtaposing texture to the chaos of the band. If the rest of 8 was anything close to these three tracks, then Incubus would have struck gold with a modern masterpiece reminiscent of Make Yourself and Morning View. Instead, they played things relatively safe, hoping to appeal to millennials and hipsters rather than the misfits and beach bums. Make no mistake, 8 is not a bad record, in fact, it has six good songs, three of which are rather excellent, but this is not the Incubus you know and love; and if 8 has shown us anything, that may not be a good thing for their albums to come.
1: No Fun
2: Nimble Bastard
3: State Of The Art
4: Glitter Bomb
7: When I Became A Man
8: Familiar Faces
9: Love In A Time Of Surveillance
10: Make No Sound In The Digital Forest
11: Throw Out The Map