There comes a time in every band’s career, which the decision must be made to return to roots or continue to drift away from its previous work. Although the latter option can be triggered by any number of motives, a sustained departure from the sound that adamantly defined the group is often dubbed as “maturation,” as these outfits are more inclined to produce an inoffensive and lighter landscape than before. With this said however, “maturation” is almost never better.
As the likes of 311, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and even the Foo Fighters had done, Incubus has grown from their chaotic and edgy origins; growing from the funk, metal, and rap influence of Fungus Amongus to the streamlined melodic rock of Light Grenades. Remarkably enough, both of the aforementioned albums, and everything in between had been solid and enjoyable (some more than others) to say the very least, speaking volumes about Incubus’ ability to inherit and adapt to new sound. Since Morning View however, Incubus’ records were each less significant than the last, showcasing inconsistency, predictability, and a loss of innovation. With all of this in place, it is only logical that the alternative rockers’ 2011 release If Not Now, When? is predominately an acoustic pop album. But this reality alone does not make the record a great one. In fact, Incubus’ latest release is devoid of everything that made the group intriguing over the past sixteen years.
Last year, Incubus ringleader Brandon Boyd released his debut solo album The Wild Trapeze. Although a pleasant listen, Boyd’s solo work was musically uninteresting and exposed his erratic songwriting abilities, which is something that has been evident throughout his career. Unfortunately, If Not Now, When? is an indication of a band that is unwilling to meld the creative energy of each member of the band, rendering it as yet another Boyd solo record. The most striking absence is that of guitarist Mike Einzinger, who has been instrumental to the band’s success since their inception. Innovative and extraordinarily talented, Einzinger contributes a few appealing leads from time to time on If Not Now, When?, but for the most part seems as though he is just a guitarist in Boyd’s band. Einzinger’s irrelevance could very well be the most frustrating actuality that plagues the record, as the release bears absolutely no resemblance to Light Grenades or even alternative rock gem Morning View. Sonically, If Not Now, When? has nothing interesting to offer, and even when the band makes the rare attempt to craft something out of the ordinary, they end up falling flat on their faces. At seven and a half minutes, “In the Company of Wolves” is the most expansive and ambitious track on the record, yet it comes off as a awkward piece that suffers from a terribly executed transition into its bass-laden second half. In addition, the release’s most vigorous track, Switchblade is such an uncomfortable clutter that it could very well be the band’s worst song to date; riding a unnervingly swift tempo and Boyd’s laughably terrible utterances of “I keep getting attacked by the girl in the black hat, the girl in the black hat.”
Although Boyd may be the only member of Incubus that is audibly significant on If Not Now, When?, his grapple with satisfactory lyricism is still very much a damaging matter. The chorus of Promises, Promises says all that needs to be said about Boyd’s poetic ability on the record; a generic drabble, beleaguered by recycled clichés. “Baby could I be the rabbit in your hat? I’d swing if you hand me, hand me the bat.” On occasion, this issue is rectified by a few sensational vocal performances, as portrayed through ballads “Isadore” and “Defiance.” The former is the type of pop song that If Not, Now When? should have been crammed with, as it utilizes an infectious melody and a performance by Boyd that rivals Light Grenades treasure “Dig.” Unfortunately, as far as a pop album is concerned If Not Now, When? is not even satisfying on these grounds as a whole, and ultimately translates as artistically useless.
As Robert De Niro indicated in A Bronx Tale, “the saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” For a band that has been innovative and intriguing throughout the highs and lows of their career, Incubus’ 2011 installment ranks well below their aptitude, with little talent expelled. If Not Now, When? is Incubus bailing on their fans, on their past, and on their future. Worst of all, If Not Now, When? is truly the type of release that can deliver the final nail in the coffin for a band that has seen much better days, and the simple argument of a need for “change” does not even cut it here. Maturation may be the correct path for Incubus at this instance in their career, but when maturity converts to sacrificing everything that made the band great in the first place, it is more or less pointless.
2. Promises, Promises
3. Friends and Lovers
6. The Original
8. In the Company of Wolves
11. Tomorrow's Food
There are 8 known bands with this name:
1. A popular alternative rock band from California, United States
2. A thrash metal band from Louisiana, United States
3. A thrash metal band from Georgia, United States
4. A thrash metal band from Sao Paulo, Brazil
5. A thrash metal band from Joao Pessoa, Brazil
6. A heavy metal band from the United Kingdom
7. A thrash metal band from Australia
8. A techno/rave group