Album Review Video Post — 11 May 2011

By Liz Belilovskaya

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.
black-thumbs-upblack-thumbs-upblack-thumbs-up3.25 out of 5

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(22) Readers Comments

  1. Pingback: Album Review: Incubus – If Not Now, When « The Planet

  2. I cannot fathom how you could call this album boring. It is different from anything the band has done. It is great music and shows how much they have progressed over the last 20 years. And how in the world could you compare Boyd’s vocals to the horrible vocals of Green Day? The difference is like day and night.

  3. I’m going to have to agree. This album, although a serious departure from anything they’ve done in the past….wait a minute. Isn’t every album that comes out that way? Isn’t that why they’re so utterly fantastic? You never know what to expect! I was, admittedly, at first disappointed because I’ve become such a fan of Einziger’s amazing riffs and solos. But I’m very quickly being drawn in to this album. I will agree that Defiance and Company of Wolves both have me the most interested. Outside of that, there isn’t a song on here I’d call boring. What I love most about Incubus is their Elegant Aberration!

  4. Clarification:
    I didn’t mean to insinuate that Einziger doesn’t sound awesome on this album, just a mellower more acoustic side to him.

    Piano? On an incubus song? That’s different.

  5. Incubus are total sellouts their music is just weak now, they should be considered a pop band. They are music I could listen to if I want to fall asleep, these guys use to be heavy now they are very soft.

  6. i think it’s great that Incubus becomes sophisticated over time. despite the risks they take, they’re still a respectable band. i don’t think they could EVER be classified a pop band. they’re too good to be called that.

    and not all Incubus fans are grown-ups. i grew up listening to their music and i might keep loving them until i’m 60!

  7. I have to disagree with some parts of the review like the “boring” part. I mean come on, Incubus has been around for so long and you have to admit that they do have a sophisticated, uncanny signature to their songs. What I love in the album so far is Promises, Promises. I am listening to one song at a time to appreciate the songs individually, not by the bulk because in doing so, you’d come up with the conclusion like this one. The band is evolving and the fact that they have returned with their brand new album says something a lot about their maturity. Not that they are losing their touch, but gaining more experience to add to their master pieces. Incubus will always be my favorite band.

  8. I agree with the review. I expected the album to be an INCUBUS album, with heavy guitars and memorable riffs, not an an album with an adult pop vibe, piano and operatic vocals. Those things have their place, but it is NOT on an Incubus album. I guess (similar to Green Day), I’ll now have to say, “I’m a fan of OLD Incubus…”

  9. The new album sucks. What happened to these guys? They used to be one of my favorite bands and now I’m not sure I’d even go to see them in concert. This should’ve been released as a Brandon Boyd solo album because the rest of the band is virtually non-existent. WTF?

  10. I’ve been with Incubus since day one. Found them at 12 years old and I’ve been blessed to grow up right alongside their music. This is my band. I feel and understand every direction they take. I can’t even waste time with people using terms like sellout or too soft. Incubus is real. Enjoy it or move on to whatever cookie-cutter sound you seek. Here is Brandon’s take on the album:

    “Success is a devilish opiate. A swift and heady drink that goes down smooth at first, and then starts to burn your throat and rattle your bones. Only to leave crater sized holes in your constitution the next day. We all love a good success story, don’t we? But interestingly, what usually makes it ‘good’ are not the ‘good’ things about the story. No. It’s the bad things that perk our ears up. It’s the tragedy inherent in the struggle that keeps us tuned in. I am in a band called Incubus. We are all about the same age; and we started our band in 1991. Our story is not unlike other success stories. It has its peaks and valleys, its struggles, its triumphs, its highest highs and lowest lows. But it’s not the bad parts of our unfolding story that have intrigued people over all of these years. To tell you the truth, I am not sure exactly what has kept people interested in us this long. I’d like to think it’s the music we make and ultimately share. I’d like to think it’s because we have struck chords with people at very specific times in their lives and that when they hear certain songs they are harkened back to the not so distant past wherein life changing events and turns in their own stories coincided with lyrics and rhythms. Sounds meandering into symmetry with an individual’s psyche like that rare moment when your body and your shadow line up on a wall. If the music has been the true catalyst for our (once again) unfolding success story, than I’d say we were right on track. Perhaps we are wanderers who have tasted the drug, smiled and mused at the kaleidoscope it wrought, then woke the next day, shook it off and kept truckin’.

    Still mildly hungover from our night on the town, we decided that it was hi-time we wrote another record. It had been five years since the release of ‘Light Grenades’, our last full length offering, and we were feeling a collective itch to chase that dragon once again.
    By about three songs into the writing process, I think we began to understand that we were unearthing something new. And excitedly, we began chasing that new rabbit as far down, around and into the wormhole as it led us. At a certain point amongst all of this creative wandering we began to understand quite clearly that certain creative mantras were reemerging. Both consciously and unconsciously. Words like, ‘economy’, ‘elegance’, ‘space’, and ‘restraint’ kept creeping back into our many conversations. Words we had toyed with in the past, but never so deliberately and never so confidently. Sprinkle into this caldron a dash of whimsy and a pinch of psychedelia, let it stew in the recording studio for a couple of months and you get this: ‘If Not Now, When?’ Our unabashed, romantic, lush, sonic love letter to the world. It’s darker, slower, more rich, more refined, and more involved than anything Incubus has birthed to date. And I am so happy to share it with all of you. 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.

    In the title track, we set the tone of the album. A stirring in the water somewhere, a long time ago, sends ripples outward. Beautifully. Symmetrically, and relentlessly pulsing out, out, out. They travel countless miles and eventually arrive at shallow waters. Then the triumphant finale. The breaking wave, after gaining thousands of miles of momentum, arcs forward into the future; the wave is about to break. If not now, when? A unique event in space and time. Never to be repeated ever again. Now. Now. Now.

    Our first single, ‘Adolescents’ is perhaps the most familiar sounding Incubus song on this new album. It begins with Michael’s unmistakable and inimitable guitar work and rolls its way into a kind of drunken waltz. Creeping its way into the idea that we are collectively just about to reach our cultural teenage years. It does seem like we’ve been around forever. Us, I mean. People. Culture. But all it takes is a sojourn into Earth’s biological record to realize that WE are quite new! And the transitions at play in our complex little game are akin to the struggles that an adolescent might endure.

    ‘Promises, Promises’, is our homage to the pop songs of yester-morrow. Referencing the deservedly ubiquitous artists of our parents’ generation, we are here attempting to craft an artisan’s clock. A piece that ticks effortlessly on the strength of its good design, its beauty and its simplicity. Herein a young girl, after so many failed attempts at love, has resigned herself to a “road of least resistance”. Armoring herself against the pain of intimacy by only engaging in surface affairs. Only to meet someone who she CAN trust with her most valued of possessions, her heart. But she can barely recognize what the real thing looks like after so much time running away from it.

    ‘Friends and Lovers’ is a song that I always hoped we would write. I do believe it is my most favorite thus far. It speaks to the heart of many of our culturally held biases about relationships and what love looks like. It combats the long held notions of love and intimacy and plainly states that Friends make the best Lovers. And that love can in fact be born of friendship and can indeed last outside of our pre-prescribed notions of what it looks like, feels like and how it endures. Movies and Religion have largely defined our cultural notions of this most important of topics. And in this song it was my attempt to share a different idea of what modern love might look like.

    ‘Tomorrow’s Food’ was written about two years ago. Making it the first song penned for this album. Here Michael shows us once again how deep his musical well runs. A vibrant, sonic quilt is wrapped around us and we are lulled by its choices and its warmth. Lyrically I am specifically referencing Philosopher Ken Wilbur’s quote from ‘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.” No one had ever put so succinctly and eloquently into words how I felt about growing up. About reaching my mid-thirties. After reading this quote, and witnessing the vast push and pull at play between the old and the new, the young and the not so young, I saw the inherent beauty and wisdom in the process of it all. And consequently, wrote a song about it. It is in this reporter’s opinion that we are in the midst of a massive shift. Culturally, ethically, artistically, technologically, intellectually, philosophically and spiritually. Almost of the “-ally’s”. This shift has occurred before; with different details and end results of course. And this shift will happen again. Absolutely. The new thing at play is our awareness of this shift. The awareness that there is never an ‘end of the world’. Only the process and the choice to witness and to participate. 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?

    When we recorded and released our first album ‘S.C.I.E.N.C.E.’, we were but wee lads overflowing with enthusiasm and energy. We’d never really toured, we’d never had an audience other than our family and friends. We ended up touring around America and Europe quite relentlessly for over two years in search of… rock and roll? By the time we sputtered, coughed and crawled our way home we were exhausted. But strangely inspired. We began writing songs for what became our sophomore effort, ‘Make Yourself’. An album that when finished, evoked a kind of head scratching reaction out of us. Being that we had unintentionally helped define a new sub-genre of music with the previous one. It seemed almost counterintuitive that we had just written a rock and roll album filled with melody, restraint, thoughtfulness (both musically and lyrically), and God forbid…singles! (If this narrative had moving imagery attached, I would place a quick edit to Godzilla tearing apart a city somewhere. People running frantically in all directions and a few brave souls here and there pointing up at the fiendish, pre-historic creature from the deep.) Make Yourself was met with trepidation by our newfound listeners. We had flipped the switch on them. Pulled the old switcheroo. We even got nervous at certain points that perhaps we had made a mistake in trusting those instincts to keep moving in this more ‘song’ oriented direction. But a few months after its release, things began slowly arcing towards success. And I stress, slowly. Slowly but surely. In the end, our creative instincts had pointed us in the right direction. It was a meandering compass, but a good one.

    If Not Now, When? is the coalescing of this slow arc. The wave that has been traveling so long, about to break. A force that is capable of both beauty and destruction, but is most noteworthy because of it’s uniqueness as an event that will never occur again. Waves have broken before it, waves will break afterwards, but each one is an individual canvas. This one is ours. Yours and mine.

    So, if success is a drug, then Incubus is a functioning addict. I know how trite it sounds to be commenting on our own success but I see our addiction as a collective one. You have enabled us thus far and what we are creating in the process will be worthy of conversation for a long time to come. When I say ‘WE’ I mean you and I. All of us. This is, after all, a conversation that started in the early 90′s and has continued until today. A stroll along a winding path through many landscapes and over much terrain. Yes, our bones ache, our dogs are barkin’, our shoes have holes in them, and we don’t look as good with our shirts off anymore. But that doesn’t mean we won’t keep walking! And conversing along the way. I’d like to start thinking of success less as an opiate and more of a segue into the good parts of a conversation.

    See you soon, girls and boys. We love making music and we feel blessed and grateful to have your attentions today and hopefully tomorrow!

    Cheers,

    Brandon Boyd

  11. I understand the boring tag, as any Incubus fan would be used to an infusion of energy or at least a change in tempo at regular points during an album. My issue with the album is that it isn’t as engaging as their previous efforts.Previous songs like Echo, The Warmth, Dig amongst numerous others really entice you , whilst the songs on this album just don’t seem to be as engaging. Maybe it’ll grow on me but I hope Mike has had enough of his musical education and they can go back to their less classical side as i imagine Kilmore probably wants something to do.

  12. Don’t like the album. Totally lacking any outstanding songs, all safe Pop music. I’m not against the softer side to Incubus, but doesn’t do anything for me. Lacking depth and emotion. 2/5 for me!

  13. I was angry at first to see Incubus ”go soft” but everyone complaining is more than likely listening for 3 seconds before skipping to the next track. Musically this sounds GOOD.
    If you can’t appreciate all music then stick with bands you know that will stay ‘hard’. With Incubus you KNOW they are gonna explore new styles in every new album…they’ve slowly and consistently transcended into the music complexities you can lace in a track. (or gone ”soft”)

    I love heavier thick guitar track, but let’s face it….it’s not always about making your ears bleed with raw rock. Is it the insecurity in accepting of a softer sound…?

    My verdict is if you listen LOUD with a good sound system or a great pair of headphones and this album makes you happy. If not you have pent up issues XD

  14. To be honest, the review sounds a bit shallow to me; as in the author seems to have missed the point of the music and the messages conveyed, like she never bothered to try and understand the album. I agree that during my first listening, I first found the songs beautiful, then a bit of “they’re all the same” (mainly induced by the fact that this first listening was from my laptop while I was cooking), and then it got to Switchblade :) And this afternoon I put the CD into my car and drove and had the music very loud – it’s incredible how this album invites people to play it loud; doesn’t happen to me often – and I fell in love with it. Brandon’s voice is lovely, his lyrics are interesting and the music is fitting. See, that’s the point of beauty: it’s chosing the right means to convey the intended message, and I believe Incubus do that really well.

    Thanks, Paul, for sharing Brandon’s words on the album; yet another proof of how intriguing this guy is… and now I really wish to be his friend. Damn :)

  15. Everybody wants to be so “hard” now days. You complainers should’ve learned to expect the unexpected 6 or 7 albums ago. These songs are too “safe”? Really? Is that why the majority of you are grumbling, for safety sake? Safe would be doing another SCIENCE album like everyone is whining for, would be stellar as hell but I’ve heard it already (and still enjoy it).

    This new album makes me happy and makes my soul smile. Yes everyone is entitled to their opinion so I’m just voicing mine. This is the best band ever, always evolving…..always moving forward. Can’t wait for the next album since I’ve loved EVERYTHING they have ever released. Slow shmo, who gives a shit. Its Incubus, ya big babies.

  16. There is no law against anyone going down to any river and taking water from the river. If you would like river water, then get it as you so choose. However, if you would like to pay for clean, purified, safe water, then I suggest you pay ‘big business’ to provide that to you. Those people chose to start a business to fulfil demand, I assume, for clean, convenient water. Guess what? People want it and people buy it. There are even portions of your beloved government that harness and provide clean water for the masses. However, people have to work to provide this product, therefore they have to charge for it. Great lyric for people who don’t want to think through their politically charged statements.

  17. Yawn. Very boring. When a band “matures” they should still sound like they are the same band, just more mature, but Incubus sound like someone else on this album. Unrecognisable. Dull. If you ask me, A Crow Left of the Murder was a mature incubus.

  18. so so so wrong!
    your interpretations of these songs are way off… a seriously bad review from someone who listened to it on the surface and didn’t bother to get into it.

    The band are going to do what the band are going to do… there are the types like Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2 who are doing the same thing over and over and frankly get very very stale… don’t get me wrong I do still like some of their stuff. I’m merely pointing out that the reverberation fades.
    And then there are the ones who take brave steps – flirting with the potential damage they could do to their core fan base, but I for one think it is genius!
    Incubus lyrics are about challenging conventions, thinking differently and on a more personal note – challenging your ego, letting go of the person you ‘think’ the world wants to see you as.
    Isn’t that just what they have done with this release…

  19. “A Crow Left of the Murder was a mature incubus.”

    Nemo just nailed it.

    I’m going to see Incubus in Manchester in November, so thought i’d better check out their latest offering. And the first song on the album was just so boring. Totally drab; only one, interesting, unexpected chord change in five minutes of plodding dreariness.

    I hope they play some old favourites.

  20. This album is awesome , if ur an incubus fan, which by the way means liking all the albums, then buy this. Its pure simplistic brilliance, its not enough to hear this album u have to “listen” to it. For me it gives me the same impression i get from hearing great bands such as Genesis, Pink Floyd and the Doors. Dont dismiss it cause it doesnt sound like “your” favorite Incubus album. This album puts em in the real music discussion, nobody is makin music like this nowadays, if this doesnt at least get nominated for a grammy ill be pissed! Listen to this loud and i dare u not to be impressed. Oh yeah, that guy that took the Thieves chorus to literally be about water, what r u on!?

  21. I’ve been listening to incubus for quite a while but this album flat out lacks motivation! Besides Isadore [ which & love!] this cd will put insomniacs to sleep like ambien. Adolescents has lyrics anyone with half a brain could write. Theives is a poor attempt at being political. Switchblade makes zero sense! Promises, promises is Brandon Boyd…that’s it! The other songs on the album dont even deserve mention because i felt nothing and im a pisces! Imo this review was too soft!

  22. The young Brandon Boyd had so much energy and it reflected on his old music. In Not Now, When, the 36 year old Brandon Boy sounds like someone who’s gone to war and has never been the same since. Their new music is a little bit depressing.

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