Written by Silas Valentino
Southern Californian art-thrash band Incubus are an anomaly amid the post-1990s rock realm and they’re well aware of their irregular fit. Speaking to Billboard earlier this year, guitarist Mike Einziger said: “We don’t fit anywhere and we never have. We were never punk rock enough for the Warped Tour, we were never metal enough for Ozzfest, we were never quite indie rock or cool enough for Lollapalooza.” So how have these square pegs continued to churn out records and dominate arenas?
Simple: Einziger has proven to be an unsung guitar slinger who can up the amp without sacrificing any of his undeniable pop sensibilities (lest we forget he was the acoustic guitar strummer for that all-too popular 2013 smash single “Wake Me Up” by Avicii) and then there’s singer Brandon Boyd who’ll often pause the distracting sex appeal to reveal his commanding frontman spirit. Together these two have led Incubus through the long-gone 1990s, ill-fated 2000s where so many of their contemporaries missed the bus and now to their eighth LP, simply put: 8.
“No Fun” wastes little time before erupting into a chord-heavy rock anthem featuring a singalong chorus that’s far from self-referential: “You’re no fun/You’re a song I never want to hear again” howls Boyd. The long-haired vocalist has mastered a tight control over the way he bends and shapes his lyrics; sometimes he’s traversing octaves through a passionate grunt while other moments have Boyd discovering new syllables hidden within the word “ignorance.” “No Fun” is straightforward and about as complicated as elementary math but when reacquainting ourselves with a band cherished from the past, blasting right out of the gate in the opening track can be much more welcoming as opposed to having us suffer through a misguided style makeover at the start.
Speaking of potential missteps, EDM megastar Skrillex makes a surprise appearance on 8 as the producer and mixer for the entire record. And while the push for incorporating yesteryear bands with modern gimmicks sounds about as appealing as a toilet flush, the king of the womp-womps provides slick and robust guidance through the record that gives Incubus a refreshing edge.
Skrillex reportedly heard the band’s original groundwork for the track “Familiar Faces” and then spent an hour reworking the track into the standout it is now. While there are twinges of electro-pop detours, “Familiar Faces” is the finest song the band has produced since 2006’s “Anna Molly.” Boyd matches the band’s jagged rhythm with a staccato-like delivery of his lyrics and Einziger rips a crunchy riff that morphs into a delightful chorus. “World has gone wild/ It’s time for us to come out of hibernation,” sings Boyd during the bridge and the call the arms resonates even louder during this unpredictable political upheaval that’s engulfed us all.
And never afraid to sprinkle their albums with sophomoric humor (the opening song “You Will Be a Hot Dancer” on their debut album ends with a recording of a Santa Clause ruffing up a snotty brat) 8 continues the band’s streak of humor with the one-off, throwaway number “When I Became A Man” centered in the album and clocking in at under a minute. Unknown if it’s rooted in fact but Boyd details his premiere sexual encounter over a soulful, bossa nova jazz backing.
It’s irregular fitting that works well, especially for a band that’s defined their career on such a characteristic.
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