Incubus – 8 Review
If you were to ask me who my all-time favorite band or musical artist is, chances are I would name Incubus. I’ll humbly admit that they may not be one of the greatest bands of all-time, nor would I consider any of their albums bonafide masterpieces. But Incubus is a band that I fell in love with about sixteen years ago that I have consistently come back to regardless of the evolution of my musical tastes and interests. They’re one of the few bands I’ve always kept tabs on, checking to see when their next album is coming out, and taking every opportunity to catch them on tour (I’ve seen them live four times and the fifth will be this August). Part of my fondness for the band could be chalked up to nostalgia; their rise to fame came as I entered my teenage years and the music connected with me and many others of my generation. They’re also an extremely talented bunch of musicians who put on a great live show, but often don’t get the credit they deserve. For every step they’ve made in their musical evolution, there have been many ready and willing to criticize the band for any change in sound, or for not returning to their heavier roots or making another S.C.I.E.N.C.E. For my part, I’ve enjoyed nearly every release the band has put out from the independently released debut Fungus Amongus to the much-hated If Not Now, When? (an album that’s unfairly judged for its lack of heaviness).
So with that said, where does 8 stack up in the band’s discography? In short, almost as bland and uninspired as the album title and artwork. That may be a bit of a harsh summarization because it’s not a bad album; in fact, most of the songs are good. But the problem with the album is that it rarely transcends being just “good.” The album shows promise with the opener “No Fun,” seemingly a statement that the band is back to its heavier, guitar-driven sound after the mellower If Not Now, When? It’s followed by the first single “Nimble Bastard,” a fun rocker that will undoubtedly make a good addition to their live set. “State of the Art” is a catchier, more radio-ready song that will likely be released as a single. “Glitterbomb” is also a solid rock track, though at a bit of slower pace than the two opening songs. From here, things go on a bit of a downward slope. “Undefeated” is a more ballad-like track that is by no means bad, but a little bland. “Loneliest” is a foray into electronic music which has the touch of Skrillex, the album’s co-producer, but is also rather generic. “When I Became a Man” is an oddity that seems like it could be a joke, but whatever the intent, is totally unnecessary. “Familiar Faces” and “Love in a Time of Surveillance” are unremarkable. “Make No Sound in the Digital Forest” is a trip-hop influenced instrumental which grabbed me on first listen and is one of my favorite tracks on the album; it’s actually a shame that it has no vocals. “Throw Out the Map” ends the album on a slightly heavier note, but a fairly uncreative one.
While 8 isn’t a total failure, and does have some pretty good additions to the Incubus musical library, it’s still a massive disappointment. In the past decade or so, Incubus has toyed with a more experimental sound, occasionally verging into quasi-prog/space rock territory. Even a few tracks from 2015’s Trust Fall (Side A) EP suggested that Incubus was continuing to experiment with their sound. However, it seems that with 8, rather than embracing their more artistic flourishes, Incubus chose to play it safe with a more pop-rock friendly sound that’s sure to continue enraging the portion of their audience that wants them to return to their heavier late 90s sound, and to disappoint the fans that have stuck by them every step of the way.
Best Tracks: “Nimble Bastard,” “No Fun,” “Make No Sound in the Digital Forest”
Reviewed by Jacob Weatherford