Largely intact since the early ‘90s and now into their second decade together, southern California rock band Incubus still gladly defies labels, genres and other forms of identification and buttonholing.
Okay, well the term “rock” may be a form of such, but it’s an extremely twistable form residing under a very wide umbrella.
Incubus could be basically considered a versatile bunch of musicians.
They’ve run the course of nu-metal, electro-funk, jazz and everything you want to throw a name at. Because of this open-ended music-making, they retain the element of surprise and creative ambition in their identity.
Their seventh album, recorded in Tennessee and California, If Not Now, When, is yet another departure and the question lingers, from what? Maybe a safe reply would be from their previous release, so expect the unexpected.
The band sails into somnambulant seas a few tracks into the recording. It’s mellow and melodic, taking cues from ‘80s pop rhythms on to atmospheric easy listening.
A relaxed reach extends to Thieves, which brings some bright instrumental texture and a typically clear Brandon Boyd vocal performance. Boyd’s style is easily decipherable and has a hooky character while not supplying blatant hooks.
This subtle style is turned up a notch and tweaked on the dark love song, Isadore, moved along with broody acoustic underpinnings from guitarist Mike Einziger.
Defiance taps this same character but works in the opposite direction towards a lighter source with Boyd and Einziger as an acoustic duo.
And here’s where the unexpected takes a veering off into a new territory on In the Company of Wolves. After being pleasantly lulled and tricked by clear and uncluttered melodicism, an epic-like sound of ageless and lofty balladry comes from the mists and lingers before it U-turns off an edge and lands on a volcanic rock.
All this finds a balance in the restless track, Adolescents, which is reminiscent of the bands moody hits… but not quite. This album moves ahead and on – all in the name of Incubus.
–– Dean Gordon-Smith is the music reviewer for The Morning Star. His column, Street Sounds, appears, every Friday.