Review Summary: Incubus make a attempt to once again pursue a change in sound but spread themselves much too thin to create a collective effort indicative of real evolution.
Years ago, with no preconceived notions about me, I put Incubus' sophomore album S.C.I.E.N.C.E.
into my friend's stereo for the first time and was overwhelmed by the structurally solid record. I was pleased enough to pick up Fungus Amongus
, and further pleased by what more I heard. I learned to appreciate the radio friendly "Drive
" from Make Yourself
, and the "Nice to Know You
" from Morning View
and, in time, gained perspective on both albums as whole pieces of a artistic objective. Even in my doubts as long-standing bassist Dirk Lance departed from the band, I still found myself in that time capable of nodding my head approvingly toward A Crow Left of the Murder
. In short, this was a band that had gained my respect and, less importantly, my patronage in every musical endeavor they released.
Which brings us to Light Grenades
. Perhaps it was a sign that upon hearing of its upcoming release there was a noticeable moment of hesitation within me before I was able to allow myself to become excited. Still, despite any further lingering doubt I may have harbored since A Crow Left of the Murder
, I complied in getting my hands on the new album and gave it a listen as soon as I was able to.
"Yes!" I thought as the slow, shifting soundscapes of "Quicksand
" greeted me into the first track, immediately causing me to flirt with the idea that perhaps Incubus was going to entertain the possibility of implementing a more prog-rock approach to their song writing. The slow, atmospheric build into the jolting "A Kiss to Send Us Off
" further convinced me that this was indeed another new Incubus sound and, thus far, one that I would truly come to enjoy.
Minutes later I would be met with the now radio-issued "Dig
", as well as a sudden dwindling in my excitement. Before the first verse had expired I had already prompted myself on how similar this song structure would match your generic radio friendly ballads and, sure enough, it didn't differ at all. I attempted to convince myself right away that this was simply a poor song placement, but nothing to be concerned about. It took time to adjust to some of the slower songs off A Crow Left of the Murder
and this was likely going to have the same effect.
I had accustomed myself to "Anna Molly
", the first single put out prior to the album's release, so I had time to collect myself from the scare. Sure, it was hooky, it sounded like your average Incubus radio-single, and it's latter half seemed a contrived attempt at re-energizing an average song by "rocking out" for a passage or two. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite enough to prepare me for the following "Love Hurts
", a song with a chorus-line reading plainly as "Love hurts, but sometimes it's a good hurt
". This coming from a lyricist who had in the past captivated so much of love, society, and introspection in subtle but piercing scribblings. I was floored, suddenly greatly disappointed, and now entirely turned-off to this "new sound".
The rollercoaster continued into the riff-based title track, which came off as more of something that would belong on A Crow Left of the Murder
, but nonetheless a breath of fresh air from my new found anxiety. Of course my breath would be much too short, as the primal scream of Boyd, something long since missed in the more recent releases, lead directly into the acoustic intro of the ballad "Earth to Bella, Pt. 1
". Once again, a song pushed from one end of the dynamic spectrum to the other and back much too carelessly. This was not Incubus. This was not the band that once captured me with the somber acoustic-driven "Mexico
", nor the band that boasted the balance between chaos on say "Calgone
" or the floating, wandering paths of "The Warmth
Another pair of generic radio ballad rock, "Oil and Water
" and "Diamonds and Coal
", could be exchanged and equally dismissed as the same musical premise. Upon reading the titles alone I should have known to expect just as much musical and lyrical originality in each of these. Both drag on as uninspired, forced passages seemingly placed to adjust the momentum of the record and nothing more. The predictability of the album stayed its course yet again leading into the mildly interesting "Rogues
" in which the band once again visits a more in-your-face sound (albeit also hooky) that would be more associated with earlier efforts. Reminiscent of "Pardon Me
", if you ignore that Einziger seems only to change things up by opting for a straight-forward guitar solo to close things in the stead of setting an ambiance with a bizarre series of erratic effects.
By this time, I am far from interested from the remaining closers, and listen only in the hope that this second portion of "Earth to Bella
" will justify is lackluster counterpart. "Paper Shoes
" felt like a further digression from the album's consistency, which at this point has crumbled into non-existence, and "Pendulous Threads
" introduced itself with a signature Mike Einziger approach of over-effected guitar arpeggiations before dissolving in what immediately begins to draw likeness to the album's debut single "Anna Molly
". The only saving grace was that this song, unlike the earlier, showed some actual progression by avoiding the "rock out-cop out" and fading out after much more interesting and structurally unique section.
The album closer, "Earth to Bella, Pt. 2
", the only purpose I continued to listen to the entirety of the album, burns out quickly and quietly. A fade in of what would seemingly be simply another verse of a complete song precedes a mess of what sounds like an attempt to capture the prog-rock sensation of the beginning of the album, the redundant slow burners throughout the middle, and the live feel of improvisation over execution, but fades into silence long before I could consider any of it interesting.
The lasting impression of Light Grenades
is a strange, incoherent one that leaves little to actually appreciate from the album, but a lot to listen to. The highs on the record are quite good, the lows are quite bad, and the middle ground is seemingly absent entirely, a bizarre change from past Incubus releases. Creativity looks to be sacrificed for accessibility, which isn't necessarily a bad thing if your looking to expand your audience. The unfortunate part of this is that many previous Incubus fans are going to be turned-off to the point of being disinterested. If you are a rabid fan of A Crow Left of the Murder
or even possibly Morning View
, you may find yourself able to enjoy this one. However, other listeners trying to find engaging, provoking music should avoid this album entirely, especially those interested in getting into Incubus for the first time.
A Kiss to Send Us Off