Album Review: Incubus – If Not Now, When
Incubus is a band for grownups. Their calm music and philosophical lyrics aim to entertain while providing intellectual stimulation. The lead singer, Brandon Boyd, has a beautiful, melodic, rangy voice, while the music is skillfully instrumental. The lyrical content sounds like optimized poetry. The overall tone of their new album If Not Now, When is sophisticated and composed but fails to awe despite the combined talent of the band.
The title track “If Not Now, When?” is a heavily instrumental track featuring steady beats and a light base. The calm of the music is accompanied by Boyd’s powerful voice as the guitars chime away framing it. It would be nice if he brought more diversity and texture to the song vocally. The point of the song is about not wasting time and taking chances, the same could be said for the track.
“Promises, Promises” is a slightly faster piano-driven song with a noticeable absence of heavy guitars. Boyd’s delivery is a bit more playful and funky which is welcome. There’s a hint of Elton John in his tone but not enough to draw a direct comparison.
The corniest song on the album is “Friends and Lovers.” The lyrics are about not having to defend the dynamic of being friends and lovers. It’s hard to see what the young are going to take away from this song. “Thieves” is a sweet track for its cool music and vocal elements which are perfectly complementary and garnished by a hig-pitched vocal. The lyrics cast light on the evils of big business when “thieves have all the fun selling water by the river that should be for everyone”.
“Isadore” is a modern day epic of intrigue. It’s a tale of Erica and Isadore, traveling to the moon and what occurs on their journey. The fantastic saccharine sentiment is not likely to play well to grownups. The next track has a techno start but almost immediately transitions to another boring, ironically familiar song, “The Original”. It’s about a man who admires an unconventional woman whom he aspires to be like. Its dreamy tone is playful, but not that interesting.
“Defiance” features much cooler music that the rest of the album, with organic guitars leading the track. The music is similar to acoustic Led Zeppelin but the vocals are similar to Green Day…if only they were into glam rock. “In The Company of Wolves” is also very organic, melding Pink Floyd and Mercy Playground, into a calm, somber construction. Boyd tempers his vocals as a result, taking a less-is-more approach. The mid-song transition to an electronic tone was surprisingly great move. The addition of female backup vocals was smart.
The most original song on the album is “Switch Blade” and it’s probably the best one. The music is edgy and fast. The vocals range from long, melodic pleas to sharp-spoken phrases over a fast drum happily beating. The female vocalist backs Boyd on this one. The song is about the singer being attacked by a girl in the black hat. “Adolescents” is another ballad inspired song boring in its musical arrangement. The lyrical content is not as witty or intelligent as in other songs, presumably speaking to the title. The final track, “Tomorrows Food,” is similarly uneventful.
If Not Now, When is a solid album that wavers in quality at different points. While Boyd is a strong vocalist, the album fails when it leans too much on his ballad sensibilities; stretching and prolonging notes and adding melodrama. At times, that’s a good thing, but numbered too closely, it lessens the novel impact.
3.25 out of 5
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