Review Summary: A swing and a miss.“I’m not dead yet!”
Such goes the chorus of “Undefeated”, the fifth track on Incubus’ oh-so-cleverly titled eighth album 8
. Judging from these songs, frontman Brandon Boyd is either delusional or a shameless liar. When it came out in 2011, If Not Now, When?
could easily have been seen as a mishap, an accidental foray into safe, midtempo alt-rock that was nothing more than a one-time mistake. With the release of 8
, Incubus have precisely confirmed that this is the new them, a hollow, empty clone of what they once were, and it’s painful to say that about one of the premier alternative artists of their time, a band that redefined the boundaries of their genre and dropped a slew of quality records at the turn of the century.
So, yes, Incubus is dead, and the carcass remaining is not a particularly appealing one. 8
is by no means a terrible album, but it is one that is utterly devoid of energy, rocking instrumental work and quality vocal performances; in other words, the qualities that made Incubus Incubus
. Surprisingly enough, the album was mixed and produced by none other than Skrillex himself, and for a man so well known for his work in the electronic music field, there’s few traces of his sound. He is, however, responsible for altering the record’s drum tone, a grave mistake that notably hampers 8
. For comparison’s sake, take the original version of lead single “Nimble Bastard” and compare it to the Skrillexed-up album variant. José Pasillas has proven himself to a perfectly capable drummer, but he is done no favors by the mixing, which ensures that the percussive sound is a drawback.
Above everything, the biggest crime that 8
is guilty of is being flat-out boring. “State of the Art” takes the dullness of “Promises, Promises” and removes any of the sentimentality that made it at least somewhat listenable, while “Loneliest” is the most obvious example of Skrillex’s influence, sporting a generic electronic drumbeat over inane repetitions of “I’m the loneliest I’ve ever been tonight”. Boyd’s vocals are shot, and it’s difficult to listen to him strain his voice to reach notes he used to easily. Perhaps it’s the years of wear-and-tear finally catching up to him. Even when the band tries to reclaim the energy of their prime, the end product is something like opener “No Fun”, whose chorus howls “You’re no fun! You’re a song I never want to hear again!” The jokes write themselves, guys.
There are several tracks that epitomize the definition of “Incubus on autopilot”, yet it’s these tracks that stand above the rest of 8
, tracks like “Nimble Bastard” and “Glitterbomb” that earn repeat listens. 8
is saved entirely by the strength of its final three tracks - “Love in a Time of Surveillance” gets off to a slow start but cranks up to a fiery ending with guitarist Mike Einziger’s Morelloesque performance. “Make No Sound in the Digital Forest” is a pleasant instrumental that features quality musicianship, while closer “Throw Out the Map” is a nice throwback to the days when Incubus rocked
. It’s plausible that the tracklisting was arranged to reward slogging through all the mediocrity to reach the vaunted ending, but is the struggle really worth it?