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Incubus - Topic

Fungus Amongus Play

Incubus' independent debut is an unremarkable take on suburban MTV funk. While there's much to dislike, notably frontman Brandon Boyd, who growls like he wants the voice of anybody but himself, there are also a few variants to the Hi-NRG game that wouldn't be out of place with Fishbone or Primus. "Hilikus" is a funkier if more legible Rage Against the Machine, and "Shaft" works the sensible side of dancefloor metal, offering a strong collection of big noise, scratched records, and stripped and temperamental bass assaults. Though fans who arrived later will be surprised by its roughness, Fungus Amongus is a step removed from most of the empty-headed rap-metal army. ~ Dean Carlson, Rovi

Make Yourself Play

Produced by Scott Litt, Incubus' second full-length album, Make Yourself, makes a bid for broader mainstream success while keeping the group rooted in a hybrid of familiar late '90s alt-metal (i.e., roaring guitars, white-noise sonic textures, and an undercurrent of electronics) and Chili Pepper funk-rock. Where S.C.I.E.N.C.E. sometimes veered abruptly between the two genres without really fusing them, Make Yourself finds the band settling more comfortably into its sound, and once again, there are a few really good singles. Once again, too, there are still a few awkward moments and underwritten songs, but overall, the album should definitely please fans. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi

A Crow Left of the Murder... Play

At the beginning of their career, Incubus was rightly lumped in with the legions of post-Korn alt metal/rap-rock bands swarming America in the latter days of the 20th century. But by their third album, 1999's Make Yourself, they had separated from the pack, as indicated by the presence of producer Scott Litt, best-known for his work with R.E.M.. It signaled that the band was serious, and they began expanding their rap-metal template on that album and its follow-up, 2001's Morning View, completing their transition from juvenelia to maturity with 2003's Crow Left of the Murder. Switching from Litt to producer Brendan O'Brien, a man who has been with Pearl Jam longer than any of their drummers, Incubus has opted for a clean, crisp yet heavy sound which allows them to aggressively switch from crunching metallic riffs to jazzy prog interludes. It's an expansive musical vision charged with some righteous anger; although vocalist Brandon Boyd doesn't write explicit protests, there sure are enough allusions to social turbulence to make this the first politically aware alt metal album in many a year. This maturation is even more evident in the music, how the band actually swings on "Zee Deveel," or how guitarist Michael Einzinger's jazz-influenced solos seem both carefully constructed and casually tossed off, or how Boyd's voice shifts from song to song (or during a song, as on the opening "Megalomaniac," which sounds like a bizarre blend of Mr. Mister's Richard Page and John Lydon). All this maturation does mean that Incubus may shed some older fans, since the naked ambitions on this record are far removed from the earnest, angst-ridden earlier records, but so be it -- A Crow Left of the Murder... is far more interesting than any of their other records, or their peers'. At times, they may stretch themselves a little too far here, but the ambition is admirable and the achievements are tangible -- a real breakthrough for the band. [A Crow Left of the Murder was also released in a limited-edition set with a bonus DVD containing a 26-minute documentary featuring footage from the band's Lollapalooza and Bridge Benefit performances, and of Boyd's injury.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

If Not Now, When? Play

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. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Morning View Play

Fans who discovered Incubus and their album Make Yourself through their massive radio hit "Drive" may be surprised that the band released a follow-up album so quickly. Yet the reality is that Make Yourself was a definitive sleeper hit, never peaking past the Top 50 of Billboard's album charts, but staying on those same charts for close to two years and in the process shifting over two million units. With each successive single that was released, the band gradually moved away from the nu-metal/Ozzfest crowd they had been initially lumped into and revealed the solid songwriting and talent for a good melody underneath the layers of surging guitars. The lessons learned from Make Yourself have definitely been applied to Morning View. While there is still a fair share of aggressive numbers ("Circles," " "Blood on the Ground," and " "Under My Umbrella" arguably the strongest of the harder tracks), the ratio of softer and mellower numbers have increased dramatically, to the point where hardcore fans of earlier material may be bewildered. For the most part, the transition works. "Mexico" is a sparsely arranged acoustic ballad that gives lead singer Brandon Boyd an opportunity to demonstrate his formidable vocal range. "Are You In" is an upbeat, funky tune reminiscent of Sugar Ray (and that's meant in a good way). The most offbeat track is the album closer, "Aqueous Transmission," a tranquil, exotic-sounding ballad that sees the band successfully experimenting with Middle Eastern string arrangements. Not all the experiments gel ("Echo"), and there is a tendency, especially in the middle third of the album, for the songs to sound too similar in sound and tempo, but on the whole, Morning View is a fine follow-up to Make Yourself and a natural progression in the band's musical evolution. While it may not appeal to fans of the harder material, music lovers who like their rock a little less aggressive and a little more ambitious and, well, sensitive should give Morning View a spin. ~ Deren Svendsen, Rovi

Light Grenades Play

On their fourth album, A Crow Left of the Murder, Incubus got heavier, both musically and lyrically, which might have developed their music but it shrank their audience. It's hard not to see their 2006 follow-up, Light Grenades, as a reaction to this situation -- not that they shrink away from the progression of Crow, but they polish and streamline their innovations from that album, resulting in a record that's sharper, cleaner, and more immediate in every respect. This naturally means that Incubus doesn't sound as heavy as they did earlier in their career, but they're still pretty somber here; even when the rhythms crash and the guitars wail, this is serious music, but they have a lighter touch here than they did on Crow. They also have a greater mastery of mood, as well as a greater musical variety than they displayed on the outset of their career. Often, they use trippy, vaguely psychedelic soundscapes to set a tone that they later blast apart with tightly focused blasts of fury, such as the skittering "Anna Molly" or the intense two-minute ballast of the title track -- or even how the acoustic introspection of "Earth to Bella" is ripped apart by shards of noise, not unlike Radiohead's "Creep." Radiohead comes to mind a few times on Light Grenades, largely in how Incubus uses echoed guitars on their expansive mood pieces, but more often they sound like a leaner, hungrier latter-day Pearl Jam in their sense of purpose and dedication to serious rock. Perhaps that's why "Diamonds and Coal" stands out so strongly in the latter half of the record: it's a tightly constructed pop song, their catchiest ever, that's unlike anything else on the record in its hookiness, which makes it all the more impressive. And instead of suggesting that the rest of the record is lacking in hooks, it actually points out how Incubus has grown: that they not only feel comfortable releasing a piece of alt-pop as catchy as this, but they don't emphasize it, they merely present it as another dimension to their sound, just like how the delicate acoustic-driven "Paper Shoes" also sounds unlike the rest of the album yet still fits comfortably into the record's tapestry. These moments of lightness illustrate the confidence Incubus now has and their increasing musical dexterity too. On Light Grenades, they are a tightly focused, purposeful band, shifting moods and textures at the drop of a dime, proving that they have become a rare thing: a modern heavy rock band that actually grows and improves with each album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

S.C.I.E.N.C.E. Play

While the press and critics jumped over the sounds of Korn, Rage Against the Machine, and Limp Bizkit, Incubus quietly toured in support of S.C.I.E.N.C.E., their first major-label LP. Incubus' hip-hop influences come from their DJ and bassist instead of their singer. Brandon Boyd's vocals hit every range from quiet whispers to funk-styled rants to hard rock screams. He also adds percussion with a bongo on a few songs (and in concert its a strange sight for such a heavy band). Boyd's demeanor in concert and record is laid back and free flowing. There's no anger surrounding his lyrics or his singing. "New Skin" adds a lot of funk to modern heavy metal while "Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song)" is a spacy dance ballad. The numerous styles on the album don't always blend perfectly, but they create a solid sound that defines the band. Incubus also manages to make their songs upbeat and danceable as well as tunes to headbang to. An admirable feat in a genre that tends to reward decibel levels instead of quality. ~ David Thomas, Rovi

Monuments & Melodies Play

Monuments & Melodies is an elliptical allusion to the hits and highlights contained within this 2009 retrospective, a double-disc set that's separated into a CD of singles and a CD of rarities. The first disc does its job efficiently, running through all but two of Incubus' Billboard hits -- the minor mainstream rock radio hits "Circles" and "Make a Move" are missing, but the non-charting single "Are You In?" is in its place -- bookended by two strong new Brendan O'Brien productions, "Black Heart Inertia" and "Midnight Swim." The second disc is devoted primarily to B-sides and other stray non-LP tracks, including an acoustic version of "A Certain Shade of Green," a remix of "Pantomime," and a ham-fisted cover of Prince's "Let's Go Crazy," where they get the riff slightly wrong. For the devoted, this disc does provide a nice service of rounding up the tunes that got away, while the fair-weather travelers get a good disc of highlights -- and while there may not be much crossover between these two camps, it does mean that Incubus cover all the bases on Monuments & Melodies, giving something satisfying to every kind of fan they have. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Playlist: The Very Best of Incubus Play

One of the more innovative bands to come out of the alternative metal explosion of the '90s, Incubus utilized an eclectic mix of sounds as they added a layer of emotion and accessibility to their sound that few bands from that era would be able to match. On Playlist: The Very Best of Incubus, Incubus have their discography distilled down to its finest moments with a career-spanning compilation that tracks the band from its breakout album, 1997's S.C.I.E.N.C.E., all the way to 2011's If Not Now, When? Offering a solid look at a band whose sound is still hard to pin down, this compilation provides a great entryway into one of the more enduring bands to come out of the era that brought us rap-rock and nu-metal. ~ Gregory Heaney, Rovi
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