Review Summary: Incubus goes mainstream, but for the better.
Incubus is a puzzling band. Not necessarily from the standpoint of their success, but rather how they kept fans while their music continued to changed. With an extremely talented core, Incubus produced two completely contradictory records, each with a distinct sound. The 1995 debut “Fungus Amongus” was an obscure release to say the least; an intriguing fusion of rap, metal, and funk. “Fungus Amongus” was a record that the world had never seen the likes of, and was flawed, yet enjoyable. Incubus’ sophomore effort “S.C.I.E.N.C.E.” may remain as the band’s most innovative album, by losing some of the funk, but adding a great deal of chaos and brutality. “S.C.I.E.N.C.E” is truly a wild experience, with Brandon Boyd screaming his lungs out and Dirk Lance tearing apart the foundation of the tracks with his bass. Both of Incubus’ first two records utilize an accelerated, and sometimes frenzied pace, without a great deal of variety. Despite having a somewhat large fan base with “Fungus Amongus” and “S.C.I.E.N.C.E.,” Incubus did not gain the mainstream success that they are associated with in the present day. With their third-full length release “Make Yourself” in 1999, Incubus went commercial.
I know what you are thinking. It would be easy to say that Incubus had gone downhill with this release, even to say “Incubus sold out with ‘Make Yourself.’” This however, is not the case. By 1999, Incubus had grown as a band; both maturing as songwriters and incorporating more variety into their music. Lead singer Brandon Boyd had shown a great deal of maturity as well, by abandoning his raspy and unforgiving scream, for a much cleaner and quite magnificent singing voice. As opposed to “S.C.I.E.N.C.E.,” Incubus lightened up, and like Boyd’s vocals, the music was calmed down in both tempo and brutality. Some may have considered this to be a recipe for disaster for Incubus, considering that the band thrived on Boyd’s rapid fire vocals and Lance’s fiery bass lines. The result however, was a more cohesive record than even “S.C.I.E.N.C.E.,” with more diversity than ever before. “Make Yourself” inherits what is sort of an outer space theme, in which is conveyed through turntables, volume swells, and other strange effects.
Like many others, the Incubus that I first heard was off of this very record. Single Drive
was a massive mainstream hit, and even reached the pop charts. Drive
to this day is Incubus’ most famous song, but is a bit misleading in terms of the sound of “Make Yourself.” Drive
is an acoustic driven track with a memorable riff and a catchy chorus. Brandon’s singing is superb here, and could likely be one of his best performances. This is by far the most mellow and poppy song on the record, offering a nice contrast to the hard rocking edge of the rest. Drive
is also an indication that Brandon has indeed developed as a pure singing vocalist, as is Stellar
. Another single, Stellar
is a spacey love song in which Brandon’s vocals are, well, stellar. Along with the guitar volume swells and turntable effects, the first line is unforgettable, “Meet me in outer space. We could spend a night, and watch the earth come up.” Stellar
is a very similar track to Pardon Me
, in which utilizes the same types of effects and also became a radio single. The turntables and other effects convey the idea that Incubus is still out to achieve more than the conventional rock band. A major part of this is due to the fact that the band replaced turntablist DJ Lyfe with DJ Chris Kilmore. Kilmore’s work on “Make Yourself” trumps anything Lyfe had done to date, and this proved to be a lucky break for Incubus.
With Kilmore at the helm, Incubus also attempts to break some boundaries with Battlestar Scralatchtica
, a track that is most identifiable with the band’s previous releases. The smooth basslines and turntable solos create quite a bizarre atmosphere that would absolutely not be out of place on “S.C.I.E.N.C.E.” The differences from the previous releases however, come in the form of songs such as I Miss You
and The Warmth
. The former is sort of a sappy and lush track, and not unlike Drive
focuses on Brandon’s singing. While I Miss You
may have been the type of track that steered Incubus’ early fans away from the band, The Warmth
is the sort of song that would keep them interested. Riding a powerful chorus with outstanding vocals and shredding lead guitar by Mike Einziger, The Warmth
proves to be the record’s most awe-inspiring track.
Incubus may have reached their innovative peak with “S.C.I.E.N.C.E.” however, “Make Yourself” is a superior record for various reasons and represents Incubus’ maturity. The album from start to finish features a tremendous amount of variety; throwing at you a funky and bizarre instrumental, spacey ballads, congo drumming, unusual effects and even somewhat standard rock songs. In 1999, Incubus became a mainstream rock band, but was still able to retain the creativity and showcase the talent from their previous two records. From the eccentric Clean
to the bass-driven Nowhere Fast
, “Make Yourself” is a spectacular effort from a band that just refuses to remain the same.