Review Summary: Incubus creates a paradox with Light Grenades, releasing their most "album-like" release yet still finding more new sounds on it than any other album. All in all, just another consistent release from Incubus.
When asked about Incubus’ new album, guitarist Mike Einzinger stated “It sounds like 13 different bands playing 13 different songs...” Well, that’s a slight exaggeration, but he summarizes the album well in that statement. In the same interview, Einzinger revealed that every member of the band has some form of ADHD. That might explain Incubus’ evolution, constantly reforming their sound into something new on every album. Despite that defining sound to each album, none of their albums feel like albums. They are just collections of songs recorded in one span of time. Einzinger explained his longing to make a cohesive album, but stated this one might be the biggest mess of all. That’s why it is so fitting that Anna Molly
is the album’s single, maybe defining the album with the line “It’s time we went and made a mess.” The album ranges from a simple acoustic ballad to a quicksilver, lightning fast punk song with tinges of electronica, pop rock, and many other sounds thrown in between. A Crow Left of the Murder featured many different sounds as well, but the album came off very inconsistent as compared to their other releases. Luckily, that is the only thing Light Grenades and A Crow Left of the Murder share in common.
A Crow Left of the Murder, the first album after the departure of Dirk Lance, played like a dirty, gritty, and angry album. Vocalist Brandon Boyd spoke out on topics further than himself with a brand new seriousness that none of his previous efforts even hinted at. The production style left an ambiguous sound where Mike Einzinger dominated everything. He left their new bassist, Ben Kenney, struggling to catch his breath. A few years and many live shows and experiences later, the band feels just as together as they were with Dirk Lance. Oddly enough, the title track Light Grenades
picks up right where Crow left off. That same guitar tone found on tracks like Megalomaniac returns, except this time with a brand new vengeance. One of Einzinger’s fastest riffs yet leads the song into a song that possesses some of the best energy from a six album strong band ever. Ben Kenney manages to keep up this time as well. In fact, he even pushes the song along sometimes. Incubus obviously made a few compromises with Kenney, making him adapt to some of their style as they enveloped some of his. Light Grenades
also sees the return of Brandon Boyd’s sarcastic tone. His cynical lyrics of “My God, will we survive ourselves?” throw back to his earlier recordings when sarcasm was his main weapon.
The song’s lyrical topic, however, stands out from the rest of the album. Everywhere else, Brandon returns to his relationship-based lyrics rather than sending out political world messages. Earth to Bella
sings to a girl named Bella, obviously, who disagrees with many of Brandon’s ideals. The music jumps from an acoustic ballad to a spaced out, sloppily electric sound reminiscent of an early Muse. Part 2
shows the song and album closing much like a live concert, a dense, ambiguous sound with no real melody while Einzinger overdubs his guitar with effects and plays way high on the fretboard. While intending to have a great build-up and climax, they fail to impress due to a lack of dynamics and a very awkward build. Brandon’s vocals on the acoustic section are some of his best on the album, crystal clear as always. Unlike most of Incubus’ departures, Earth to Bella
plays around with their song structure and it finds the band extremely uncomfortable. When the band expands their sound while remaining around their same song structure, it works much better. Dig
displays that in full form. According to the band, Dig
started as a strange R&B song. Hearing the song in its form now, the R&B version could have been fantastic, as the lyrics and style of the song still hint towards that R&B sound. However, Incubus reworked the song with a more pop rock sound. The band is no stranger to pop rock, but the mix of Einzinger’s arpeggios and acoustic guitar in the verse is new. The whole feeling of the song, purely happy and blissful rather than a tinge of depressing or sarcastic, comes as a breath of fresh air.
also features Chris Kilmore’s newfound job on the keyboard. On Light Grenades, Kilmore is almost completely stripped of his DJ-ing duties. He finds his place at the keyboard, comping chords for the band so Einzinger has more freedom with his guitar. Still, sometimes, Einzinger plays along with the chord pattern and Kilmore. Masterfully, the two use different voicings and it leaves extremely deep and rich chords. Paper Shoes
shows Einzinger playing second fiddle to Kilmore for most of the song. His piano stands out and leads most of the track. In the chorus, the chords of Einzinger and Kilmore sound their best together, especially when the song modulates and the guitar becomes a bit stronger. Paper Shoes
shows another unique feature in percussion. Brandon and Einzinger attached body mics to themselves and beat on their heads and chests, which created a quick percussive sound that sounds like rapid fire congas.
Still, Incubus knows what they’ve done best lately. They create fantastic, accessible rock songs. Anna Molly
creates just that and works excellently as the lead single. There is nothing innovative or new about the song, it’s just pure Incubus rock. The song finds Brandon singing about a girl that exists in his mind but he doesn’t know if she really exists in the real world. It’s catchy and accessible and features some great riffing as well, especially with a slight instrumental interlude in the bridge. However, a few of these poppier songs are just boring and bland. Oil and Water
and Diamond and Coal
, placed back to back, are easily the worst tracks on the album. Oil and Water
finds an uninspired Brandon turning out some mediocre vocals, although the song does pick up a bit in the second half with some great vocal harmonies. Diamonds and Coal
fails in its terribly generic and boring palm muted verse and underwhelming chorus. The two songs are by no means impossible to listen to, but they definitely drop the quality in the album.
Ever since their debut, Incubus has continued to make consistent and great releases. They’ve never stepped too far out and revolutionized the rock world but they’ve stepped on some toes along the way, leaving old fans behind and picking up new ones with each new sound they produce. As time goes on, the band finds even more ways to tinker with the sound and each album becomes less and less defined. That being said, Light Grenades is as much of an album as the band ever produced. It possesses a true album opener and closer, the electronic Quicksand
and the jam-styled Earth to Bella Part 2
, respectively. It feels tight and together, not a huge and unorganized mess like A Crow Left of the Murder. Few mainstream rock bands have six consistent releases to their name and it proves that Incubus has more talent than any band of their mainstream popularity. They’ve mastered creating a great, catchy song and don’t limit themselves to just that. Even at six albums, Incubus shows no signs of slowing down. Light Grenades is certainly worth a listen.
A Kiss to Send Us Off