Incubus
If Not Now, When?


2.5
average

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
June 11th, 2011 | 385 replies | 63,573 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Shockingly lethargic, bewilderingly mediocre.

Oh dear. Just as surely as Coldplay did, just as surely as Kings of Leon did, and just as surely as Audioslave did for a couple of singles, Incubus have turned into U2.

Perhaps you might not think of that as a bad thing. U2 aren't anywhere near as bad as their haters make out, after all, and it's only natural that Incubus are maturing - anybody expecting another S.C.I.E.N.C.E. from a band that formed 20 years ago and that has an average age of 35 is kidding themselves. Yet it's hard to defend If Not Now, When? any more than that, and it's not much of a defence.

The biggest problem this record has is that Incubus have two major creative forces in their ranks, and neither of them sounds comfortable here. Brandon Boyd is a wildly inconsistent lyricist, and occasionally a pretty dumb one, but that's exactly what makes him so charming as a singer - he gives the impression of somebody that's just throwing every idea they have at the nearest wall and seeing what sticks. He could just as easily come up with a blinder of a lyric as one that makes you cringe, and seeing how he gets on and how good his hit-to-shit ratio is has always been one of the main appeals of an Incubus album. The problem that the material on If Not Now, When? presents him with is that it forces him to be more demure, more restrained. That struggle between what Boyd does naturally and what he feels like he needs to do for the good of the song plays out throughout the entire album, and never does so with satisfactory results - either he cuts loose with his words and sounds completely out of place, or he reigns himself in and renders himself utterly average, losing everything that made him so charismatic and entertaining in the first place.

Mike Einziger, the other creator in this band, has similar problems, yet his are even more damaging to the album and to the band's sense of identity. While Boyd is still out front, struggling in open view, Einziger is completely anonymous; the guitars lines on this album could have been written and played by just about any guitarist in the world. Again, the charitable way to explain is to say he's 'playing for the song'. Yet in doing that, Einziger seems to have mistaken subtlety for meekness. He leaves no audible imprint on this album - and if you don't think of that as unacceptable, try comparing his contributions here to John Frusciante's work on Californication, Stadium Arcadium, and By the Way - all albums that If Not Now, When? seems desperate to emulate, and all albums that Incubus should have paid much more attention to before attempting this. It's tempting to say Einziger's lost his touch, but I doubt that's the case. It sounds more likely that he just didn't think these songs and this sound were worth wasting any effort on - he's so disinterested that he barely even turns up on "Switchblade", the one track on the album with any energy, and the song is left sounding like a complete mess as a result.

I'm all for the idea of Incubus going 'soft', because ultimately they went 'soft' on Morning View and ended up writing their best album. It's because of this that any criticism of If Not Now, When? that bases itself solely on the lack of "Redefine" or "A Certain Shade of Green"-esque riffs is missing the point entirely - it's much more important to wonder why there aren't any songs here like "The Warmth", "Just a Phase", "Echo", "Southern Girl", "Drive", "Love Hurts", "Aqueous Transmission", "11AM", or "Mexico". Those were all 'soft' songs, and they all had more atmosphere, emotion, and power than anything on this album - and crucially, they all still sounded like Incubus.

It's just a bewildering album, really. Why make this album at all? Why make it now? Who is the target audience? Where is the new fanbase they're aiming at that are going to replace all the fans they'll lose? I honestly can't imagine the kind of person that would really enjoy these songs; they're devoid of any personality, they have none of the appeal any other Incubus song provides (even the bad ones), and the same sound has been done much better by plenty of other bands. I can't in good conscience give a rating lower than 2.5/5, because it's just too inoffensive for me to hate it - but isn't that just another brutally damning flaw? This is Incubus we're talking about. Even at their worst, they were always interesting. If Not Now, When? can't even offer that.

Maybe it's a shade too melodramatic to say this, but I honestly feel like there hasn't been an album by an established rock band that misjudges the mood of their fanbase, and of rock as a whole, as badly as this since St. Anger.



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user ratings (554)
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
mallen-
June 11th 2011



1235 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Spot on. I have no problem with a pop album from these guys, but the execution here was really terrible.

DoubtGin
June 11th 2011



6748 Comments


yeah this is pretty awful for an Incubus album

AutoRock
June 11th 2011



416 Comments


Jesus Christ. People need to stop comparing every single rock band hat take a nosedive with U2. Although U2 do suck for the most part on their post Zooropa LPs, Incubus does not sound like U2 at all.


AggravatedYeti
June 11th 2011



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

sounds too much like dad rock.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2011



15341 Comments


I had a feeling this was going to suck based on the singles I heard. Nice review.

Digging: Astronauts - Hollow Ponds

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
June 11th 2011



7314 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I actually quite liked the song I heard, but I've got low expectations for this.

AlexTM510
June 11th 2011



1398 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I feel like that if this was some random new band everyone would be trashing this harder. But i'm guessing since Incubus have built themselves up for 20 years theres a need for progression-but this is just largely stale and boring.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2011



15341 Comments


Based on how this sounds, and what critiques I have heard of it so far, a 2.5 might even be too generous

HBFS
June 11th 2011



1218 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Adolescents and Isadore are good songs, but the others are pretty much awful.

Digging: Jamie xx - Girl/Sleep Sound

Willie
Moderator
June 11th 2011



15887 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Jesus Christ. People need to stop comparing every single rock band hat take a nosedive with U2. Although U2 do suck for the most part on their post Zooropa LPs, Incubus does not sound like U2 at all.
Have you actually heard this album in order to decide if the comparison is justified or not? Also, you obviously misunderstood the comparison in the review because he's not comparing them to U2 simply because they took a nose dive. He's referring to their slick, restrained, modern rock kind of sound that U2 basically perfected.

Digging: Emperor - In The Nightside Eclipse - 20th Year Anniversary

mallen-
June 11th 2011



1235 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Adolescents and Isadore are good songs, but the others are pretty much awful.


yeah I actually really like Isadore, without it this would probably be a 1.5

freedomofspeechnoway
June 11th 2011



411 Comments


Two things - The rating doesn't match the negative ramblings, and more importantly, most of this review is about other albums.

I honestly can't imagine the kind of person that would really enjoy these songs; they're devoid of any personality


That's not a 2.5

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2011



10011 Comments


Good review. I do think that In The Company of Wolves was the highlight of the album; its second half was really powerful, but I do definitely think that the album lacks an energy to it.

Digging: Deniro Farrar - Rebirth

Acanthus
June 11th 2011



9537 Comments


Liked the review, I really doubted that this would have any appeal for me sadly. I, for one, enjoyed all the comparisons made throughout the review as well as the ending paragraph(s). It is top notch sir, top notch.

Digging: The Cure - The Head on the Door

Emim
June 11th 2011



26509 Comments


damnit, was hoping this was good because it was Incubus.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2011



7144 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh dear. Just as surely as Coldplay did, just as surely as Kings of Leon did, and just as surely as Audioslave did for a couple of singles, Incubus have turned into U2.

This would be an incredibly good thing if it were true.

Yazz_Flute
June 11th 2011



18764 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I really like the title track, Isadore, and Adolescents. This grew on me once I decided to judge it not as an Incubus album.

Digging: Cormorant - Dwellings

Irving
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2011



7144 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Review is great and a fantastic read overall. Even if that U2 comparison in the opening two paragraphs makes me want to break things.

CrowsZero
June 11th 2011



91 Comments


Incubus used to be good band. Light Grenades and this ruin it all

omgraptors
June 11th 2011



813 Comments


If it's really as "bad" as Light Grenades, then that's good news for me because I tough that Light Grenades was great.



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