Review Summary: On this page you see a little girl giggling at a hippopotamus; I wonder why?
What do current day Incubus and Incubus circa 1997 have in common; not much. One can't even claim that the band still has the same line up as two pieces of the original roster have long since left the group citing creative differences. This really isn't all that surprising given that Incubus are very much a band founded on artistic integrity and thus guitarist, Mike Einziger has been cited on many occasions as saying that the group would never make the same record twice. Despite some minor similarities between "Make Yourself" and "Morning View" they have pretty much followed this standard to a tee. Unfortunately, much like any group founded on experimentation, not all of their albums have worked (ACLOTM) and some might even argue that after being around so long that they have run out of a little creative steam. However, if one is to truly take Incubus' mission statement to mind, then nowhere have they more thoroughly accomplished their goal than on their sophomore effort, S.C.I.E.N.C.E.
Incubus is a special band to me. "Make Yourself" was the precise album that got me to actually care about music and not just eat up to whatever was being dished out by MTV or the local pop stations everyone was listening to at the time. Coming from this, hearing S.C.I.E.N.C.E. was like a revelation. Many bands pride themselves on being able to cram as many genres as possible into their repertoires even at the expense of songwriting quality. On S.CI.E.N.C.E. Incubus have crafted one of the most, schizophrenic, bipolar, and utterly chaotic albums I've ever heard, and yet they pull everything together with a degree of finesse that is nothing short of beautiful. There is something about a certain lack of major label and radio expectations that is most conducive to a band's creativity and this is precisely the case with this masterpiece.
Whenever an album opens with didgeridoo you know fantastic things are to come; "Redefine" upholds this standard with ease and is a great introduction to Incubus' sound on this album. The track is a pulsing anthem for individuality chock full of heavy riffs, lax funk sections, a serious earwig of a chorus, and a jaw-dropping tapped bass solo that would make Flea blush. Believe it or not this is actually one of the tamest songs on the record as it is followed up by the frenetic techno-craziness of "Vitamin" and the bustling, tribal funk metal of "New Skin." This track and some other spots on the album do see Brandon pulling out some raps, but considering that they are much more so in the vein of Anthony Kiedis or Mike Patton than say Fred Durst they are quite tolerable; screw it, they're quite good actually. "Idiot Box" rolls around as the fourth standout in a row displaying a groovy jazz-rock sound with a punk/thrash section that comes out of nowhere clutching the listener gently by the neck and steamrolling him into a smooth chorus.
As wild as the first half of the record is, it's merely a warm up for the second part. "Deep Inside" is a funkadelic ode to the band's herb of choice complete with totally random heavy parts, and a chilled out "weather channel worthy" guitar solo and "Nebula" sounds like an acid trip gone wrong in the best way possible, if that makes any sense whatsoever. But, far and away the most bizarre song to be found in the collection is "Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song)" for the reason that it is really the only "normal" song to be found in the album. In the context of the other tracks it almost sounds like a joke song that wouldn't sound out of place on a Dave Matthews Band record boasting an overly dramatic chorus and of all things, a sax solo. However, listened to in it's own right, its a gorgeous song that perfectly captures the light, soaring feeling of falling in love for the first time. But, after this if there are any lingering doubts as to Incubus' mental instability they are put to rest by the wild closer "Calgone" which recounts Brandon's experience being abducted by aliens and will have you singing "They put cold things in my butt, butt, butt!" all day long.
In addition to the ridiculously strong songwriting and creative chops that course through this album, each of the members shine brilliantly in their own ways. José Pasillas has always struck me as one of the most underrated drummers in rock music, but in terms of crafting unique beats with killer grooves he's second to none and holds nothing back on this release (Check out his fills on Redefine and Favorite Things). Einziger follows in form, and while he only has one solo he proves a key force in driving the record with some great legitimately HEAVY riffs and creative leads throughout. Boyd also gives what could be his best performance to date on this release shifting seamlessly between soulful lows, soaring highs, maddened shrieks, growls, and spitfire raps, without every once veering into the annoying whines that have plagued the band's more recent work. His lyrics also deserve mentioning and are utter genius. "Thank goodness for bath tubs and suuuuuds." -Calgone. As impressive as these performances are, it's really the two departed members who leave the greatest impacts. Dirk Lance is an absolute beast on the bass and pokes, pops, prods, and abuses his instrument in ways that Ben Kenney could never hope to rival. DJ Lyfe also adds the special little sumthin' to many of the tracks whether it be skillful scratches, synths, or hilarious samples in many of the bridges.
S.C.I.E.N.C.E. is a truly "stellar" album that shows a band creatively aflame and at the top of their game. While I certainly do not expect Incubus to return to such epic roots, I can only hope that they find whatever inspiration (or dealer) they need to write something of this caliber in the near future. S.C.I.E.N.C.E. is piece of art that is an absolutely necessary listen for all fans of everything weird and wonderful.