By at 12:30 AM Tuesday, April 26th 2011

 

Incubus Goes Down The Rabbit Hole With ‘If Not Now, When?’

Incubus, Reviews

 

A five year leap finds Incubus in a new dimension, their sixth studio album a forefront-placing of inner-recipe artistic drive and an atmospheric embrace decidedly feminine in nature. The album was preceded by a long missive by Boyd, explaining the tidal shift in the band’s approach to If Not Now, When?.

“By about three songs into the writing process, I think we began to understand that we were unearthing something new,” Boyd shared. “And excitedly, we began chasing that new rabbit as far down, around and into the wormhole as it led us.”

He called If Not Now, When? “Our unabashed, romantic, lush, sonic love letter to the world,” explaining, “It’s darker, slower, more rich, more refined, and more involved than anything Incubus has birthed to date. This entire time, Incubus has essentially been searching for a sense of balance between all of the possibilities inherent in crafting a song. I do believe that for many years now we have been searching for something different. Something unique, both to the world and to us as a band. We decided that If Not Now, When? our 6th full length studio album would be just that.”

Unique it is, and certainly different from its catalogue predecessors. There’s little chance that it will soothe the turbulent seas of expectation that the band return to their more aggressive roots, and if these fifty beautiful minutes are any indication, those folks may as well pack it in and head elsewhere. What lies in place of the lit path are the jungles of possibility, the result of the journey a soundtrack fit for the delicate state of mind just following a psilocybin adventure – a spiritually uplifting body of work.

Opening with a beehive symphony of strings and oddity that gives way to an echoing, slow-strum beat and gently pulsing bass, the title track introduces an ethereal, reflective beauty untethered to the buzzscape. “I’ve waited all my life / If not now when will I?” Brandon asks, before pointing out the core of the modernist dilemma: “Don’t you feel like something’s missing here?” The soft soul-searching leaves on a demand: “Don’t hide your eyes / it’s time.”

And just like that, Incubus’ left-turn promise has been fulfilled.

The piano-driven Promises, Promises hints at a Steve Lilywhite contribution, a sentimental soft-popper that will further infuriate the hordes demanding a full-throttle return to the aggression of S.C.I.E.N.C.E. To that, I say: you aint seen nothin’ yet.

The gentle reaffirmation of Friends and Lovers follows suit on Jose Pasillas’ distant-thunder background drums and gentle chord progression, an introspective assessment of love’s strength despite the confines of external definers. Rejecting the standard notion of cultural relationship architecture for a more bohemian, borderless establishment of connection, there is a refusal to defend the title of what the two have come to be in unique union.

“What’s wrong with you is good for what’s wrong with me,” Boyd reassures, with a powerfully poetic simplicity that outlines essentially all we can truly ever hope for in finding a partner in life’s imperfection. By Brandon’s own words, it was his attempt to share a different idea of what modern love might look like, but the core of devotion is a thread immediately relatable when the ego is truly muted.

Damnation comes in deceptive forms at times. Without the lyrical value applied, the melody and instrumentation of Thieves is a soul-boosting hand of encouragement. But as the words settle in, as Boyd laments the powers that be “selling us water by the river,” the vulture haves circling the have-nots with smiles that serve as “salt in the wound, a slap upon a back that’s been toiling in the sun,” the picture clears of a protest designed to sweetly suck you in before recoiling with a new mantra a great many of us share at heart: “they don’t speak for me at all!”

Guitarist Mike Einziger’s foreboding classical guitar intro to Isadore immediately contrasts the pendulum-slam beat accompaniment, but Boyd’s floating melody builds the middleground, the restless soul demanding the fruits of devotion from a runaway love. “I want more than this kite will soar,” he croons before the turn, “set our sights on the moon”.

The Original inspires flutters of concern in the heart of an OG Incubus fan; despite the psychedelic-electro beat rise, why does the saccharine melody call Taylor Swift to mind? What’s happening here? With effort, we can lose ourselves in the slow-crashing tide of the song’s pinnacle, like the chaotic time displacement that can occur after getting thrown underwater by a strong wave. And there we stay…

We don’t surface again until Defiance follows with an acoustic blast of sunshine and “oooooh oooh ooooh” falsettos, sharing our sentiment with “You almost had me there!”. I kid. But the simple, unplugged delivery holds strong as a palette neutralizer of the album’s front half. Nevermind the assault on manicured bohemia and condiment conditions surrounding an insistence that the band return to a sound they carved as they were breaking out of their teens – these are seasoned professionals unapologetically building new horizons, with bizarrely fascinating result.

Some of those horizons reach beyond anyone’s expectation, one in particular extending to an alien-groove world with a hard case of industrial-funk-psychedelia dementia. A clean guitar and gentle organ are the devious soothsayers as In The Company of Wolves sets in, a far-left-field vocal performance that’s more Jeff Buckley than Brandon Boyd, indicating an entirely different set of chemicals in play. “It helps to know serenity from ennui,” he breathes, moments before the dark-funk cloud rolls in. Ben Kenney’s thudding bass and Chris Kilmore’s tinkling keys set the mood for a smooth-crooner slowjam pillowtalk verse, barely above a whisper. Think Mike Patton with a broken heart.

The snap back to familiar air is a quick and dangerous kick-drum knockout by way of Switchblade, a slick & buoyant association between his muse and the delicate, deadly weapon of title. It’s a great mood setter for the album’s penultimate track and first single, the smoothly effervescent Adolescents.

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Tomorrow’s Food closes out If Not Now, When?, a sprawling two-year old existentialist track inspired by the quote from Philosopher Ken Wilbur’s A Brief History Of Everything: “No epoch is finally privileged. We are all tomorrow’s food. The process continues. And spirit is found in the process itself, not in any particular epoch, or time, or place.” The song, with a circular, twinkling guitar riffs and heaven synths rising over a soft beat, is a reminder of our infinitesimally small position in the universe in contrast to the growing pains associated with the massive changes underway in our world.

Boyd explained it best in his own words last month: “What may feel like the end of the world is that humbling moment when you realize that a new set of ideas has usurped your generation’s ideas. Confused and confounded by the “way things are going” you can’t help but think it’s all going to shit, and that you have to fight to defend what you’ve built. But in actuality what is occurring is a necessary evolution. A handing over of the collective baton. If not now, when?”

Indeed.

 
 

Incubus

If Not Now, When?

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Released: 12/07/2011
Label: Epic
1. If Not Now, When?
2. Promises, Promises
3. Friends And Lovers
4. Thieves
5. Isadore
6. The Original
7. Defiance
8. In The Company Of Wolves
9. Switchblade
10. Adolescents
11. Tomorrow's Food
 

Meanwhile, On The Internet...

 
32 comments
  1. Zack Jackson says:

    This almost sounds like a review for Ok Computer or Kid A, like they’ve redefined/created a genre. From the track you guys put in the article, it sounds like they’re a shitty version of As Tall As Lions > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmPq5wNvfPY , who aren’t even that great. But I’ll check it out anyway because I usually love your guys’ recommendations.

  2. I’m all for evolution and stuff, but it left me cold. I hope it’ll change when I come back to it.

    • Woz Haslehurst says:

      Would you drive all the way to the bakery just to tell them you dont like bread? Plainly your musical appreciation leaves much to be desired.

  3. Trina Green says:

    That track is Incubus formulaic, time signatures and all, and did nothing to make me want to dig any further. If you’re looking to highlight/point out/distinguish this album’s “unique approach” from their others, another track would probably serve that purpose better.

  4. pupo says:

    Boring, I hate when music becomes only the means to showcase Boyd’s voice and pseudopoetry…. the one and only truly evolving band of that ‘era’ was and is deftones, IMO….

  5. Kevin says:

    This reminds me a little of the ‘Crow Left of the Murder’ stuff. I’m sure this song was picked as the single because it’s probably a good buffer beween the older material and the new. I’m not 100% sold on it yet, but it is growing on me. Definitely one of the best live bands I have ever seen.

  6. Cody Lamie says:

    I ended up enjoying the album a lot more than I expected to. Also where is Surface To Air?

  7. Adrian Garro says:

    Yeah I was bummed Surface to Air isn’t on the album, I liked that song when I saw the live video a few months back.

    Anyway, Johnny, this review is ridiculously well-written. I feel like I’m reading a novel. ahha.

    Listening to the album, I see what prompted such words: There is a definite emphasis on Boyd’s lyrics this time around, since there are basically no electric guitars at all. I wonder what Eizinger was doing in the studio, his sound is so missing on this album.

    And yet, somehow, I find it more interesting than Light Grenades, which was of course garbage.

    In the Company of Wolves is REALLY good, btw. good call with that one.

  8. Ozipunter says:

    US Release: Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Is that release date correct? You guys got the album real early if thats the case!

  9. I like how you guys have used the early leak for an early review. At least make sure you have the correct titles. Check the official title (for example at the pre-order site) for Switchblade (one word, not seperate as it was in the leak tracklisting) before you write a review.

    See for proof here: http://nl.myplaydirect.com/incubus/if-not-now-when-/details/25781778

    Next time, wait at least until close to the release date before you write a review based on a leak.

  10. armogi says:

    that band died after science, its even painful to listen to that album now considering the crap they released since then… i guess this is another teenage chicks effort, this early leak is already gone from my HD.

  11. Isa says:

    The CD is mediocre at its best. Seems like the entire album is about love and while I am not against love or mellow music, I find myself missing some of the more powerful vocals that I know Brandon can deliver. The lyrics are unimpressive. There are a few songs that I actually DISLIKE, i.e. Tomorrow’s Food. I actually dislike about half the album now that I think about it. I never thought the day would come when I heard an Incubus song that I didn’t like.
    This is my least favorite Incubus album to date.

  12. Eduardo says:

    When I first heard the album I thought it was different, but not bad, now it has grown on me so much, I love it, it’s very different but awesome, it’s incredible how incubus always surprises me, and yet is the best band out there, every band every now and then likes to try something new, and if you give this album a chance, you’ll see that it’s fucking awesome!!!

  13. Kelley says:

    It’s EINZIGER guys, EINZIGER.

  14. Kelley says:

    If you’ve followed Incubus, you should have an idea of what they are capable of musically and lyrically. I can understand how a lot of people might be disappointed with this album when you compare it to its predecessors, as it is definitely more restrained. However, if you’ve followed Incubus, you’re probably also aware that they are constantly evolving. If you throw expectation out the window, you’ll probably appreciate the album a lot more. The simplicity of the music draws more attention to the vocals and lyrics…as well as the emotions behind them. I, personally, feel like this is a good thing. It allows us to focus on and really ponder upon these thoughts. For that reason, I feel like it’s a really motivating album. Most of society is so resistant to change, but how can we evolve if we don’t accept what is new and different? So this evolution of Incubus’s is kind of a beautiful slap in the face….like a: “Hey! This is what’s happening now! It’s different! If you don’t like it, that’s your problem. We’re going somewhere different now!” It’ll probably take some getting used to, but give it a chance. It might just surprise you in a really good way! Plus, I mean, you can always go listen to the older shit when you want to rock the fuck out.

  15. James says:

    Personally, I’m just ridiculously happy they’re still making music after at least 5 incredibly immense albums.

  16. I try to avoid early reviews so I can not only judge for myself, but so I don’t have any sort of expectations. After I heard “Adolescents” I needed to see where Incubus was going with this one. I am glad to see that the author enjoyed this album and I enjoyed his writing. Anticipating the release and the car rides with this album.

  17. Chris Timmons says:

    I’ve been following Incubus for years, and this album has definitely grown on me. I’m a huge fan of the opening track, I think it’s my favorite. The sound has almost an eerie overtone to it, raised the hair on the back of my neck on my first listen. I definitely recommend this album, even if you haven’t liked their latest stuff you should give this one a chance.

  18. Comment says:

    This album is such a grower! First few times I listened it left me with a “meh” impression. But believe me, if you can get through that phase… greatness awaits! It sounds so lush, laced with some beautifully written lyrics, it’s mellow and the melodies are ridiculously addictive!

    This album has a lot of depth, so do yourself a favor and do not write this off after 1 or 2 listens.

  19. miss bliss says:

    if i was to compare the new Incubus album with shades of color, it will be pale, pastel shades that, once in awhile is dropped with luscious red blood when my ears perk up at certain bends and valleys of the tracks.

    i am a major ‘ye olde incubus’ fan. a silly nutjob of a fan way back when.

    upon listening to the new album i find myself hating it so much, i force myself to appreciate it. those pale shades of pastel comes from a comfort that all the musicians bring without any forced power unlike the first few albums, which shows since they have matured. however, those drops of blood tint these shades when the words and tune made sense.. brandon has always been a storyteller. though he was not at his finest, he still managed to create stories that invoke the imagination.

    einziger still, a maestro of creative sound composed riffs that are spellbinding and although has not added aggression so much, delivered balanced, soft, yet powerful signatures.

    which brings me to the composition of the accompanying instruments which cannot be OTT, because of the theme of the album. kilmore has upped his ante, adding more keys, with kenny maintaining simple yet rhythmic lines. pasillas had to maintain low key beats as well because this album needed soul and some melancholy.

    i will never put this album as my favourite album, but i am assured that incubus went out of the box, yet again, to push themselves further as musicians. although there are parts which i thought was nothing new in mainstream music, there were also parts which, for some reason, made my heart soar.

    i await their next series of composition.

  20. tbone57 says:

    I have all of their previous relaeses and have seen them live 8 times. Im skipping this release and their upcoming tour. What they had was great and I will continue to revisit their back catalogue.

  21. Jeff says:

    Gold Cobra is better.

  22. [...] Incubus on hiatus, after completing the promotional cycle for 2011′s reflective (and solid) If Not Now, When?, front man Brandon Boyd is free once again to pursue more experimental [...]

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