Review Summary: A Crow Left of the Murder is another transformation for Incubus, but this time more drastic than any other before. The departure of Dirk Lance makes an obvious change in the band's sound, and they push their aggression into a whole new realm.
Incubus is truly a band to be praised. Not only have they created a mass success in the mainstream world, but they manage to reinvent themselves with every release they put out. They started out in California, heavily influenced by the early Red Hot Chili Peppers. Incubus started purely as a fun-loving funk band. They showcased Dirk Lance, a fantastic bass talent who showed promise to challenge some of the greatest bass players of all time. As they found more success, they stepped further towards the rock realm, finally combining their rock aspirations and their funk roots on their breakout album Make Yourself. However, once they found success in their singles Drive, Pardon Me, and Stellar, they refused to stick to the same sound. Morning View saw an almost complete abandonment of their earlier days. Instead, Incubus attempted a tranquil and purely rock album. This saw the departure of Dirk Lance and they recruited guitar player Ben Kenney to play bass. A Crow Left of the Murder is the first album with their new bass player and once again, Incubus has created a brand new sound.
Normally, losing a bass player creates little impact on a band’s sound. However, with a bass player like Dirk Lance who contributed so much soul and groove to the band’s sound, Incubus found themselves with a big, gaping hole in their sound. Smartly, the band decided to work their sound around this hole and allow for a much more guitar-oriented sound. Still, this is a complete transformation for the band, a much bigger transformation and the most sudden of their history. Even in all their other voices, they allowed space for great basslines. However, with Ben Kenney being an inexperienced bass player, he lacks the confidence to completely fill Lance’s hole. There are some places where Incubus’ cover slips and an Incubus fan cries for a Dirk Lance fill. Songs like Talk Shows on Mute
are a perfect representation of this. Kenney does a great job stepping up and being a main instrumental force in the song, but Lance’s fat tone and ability to create unique fills are sorely missed. In almost any other situation, Kenney may have even been an upgrade, but Incubus is certainly an anomaly in rock music.
However, the rest of the band plays in full form on this album. Mike Einzinger plays fantastically on the album, playing with full aggression at some points and at others laying back and showing his jazzy roots. He often plays along with Kenney, pulling him along and leading the way through faster riffs such as in Sick Sad Little World
. The chorus riff propels the song forward which Einzinger and Kenney both play and it all builds to Brandon Boyd’s annunciation of the title. The song then shows off an Einzinger solo in a slightly avant-garde title. He switches tones as if there were two guitar players in the band, going from a sloppy, slightly distorted rock tone to an extremely bluesy tone. The solo shows off both his aggression and his tranquility. He later dabbles in effects while the rest of the band builds up to the climax at the end of the song. However, the climax is nothing but a repeat of the chorus. A heavier, chunkier riff could have made Sick Sad Little World
one of the best songs in Incubus’ career. Despite the lackluster climax, the song shows off what this new sound promises.
A Crow Left of the Murder puts out some straight up aggressive rock songs as well. Priceless
begins with pounding drums and Brandon returns to some of his more aggressive spoken vocals epitomized on S.C.I.E.N.C.E. However, the mix of this track, with the somewhat annoying drum beat overplaying everything in the band takes away from the track significantly. The guitar and bass on the song are really nothing to marvel at anyway, fairly simple riffing. The bridge, showcasing another Einzinger solo, stands out as the best part of the track as it releases into a half-time feel that, once again, fails due to the production of the track. Leech
makes a much better straight up rock track, maintaining the same uptempo feel from Priceless
but mixed much better. A surprisingly good bass intro begins the song, and the song begins a rollercoaster ride that climaxes at the chorus. It further builds at a fantastic riff in the bridge, which is rhythmically unique and excellent.
Overall, A Crow Left of the Murder explores a few new sounds for Incubus to pursue. They even explore into a piano ballad on Here in my Room
. Brandon Boyd gets the chance to really showcase his excellent voice. Overall, the song sounds much like Silverchair on Diorama. The song pulls in many different instruments, including some strings. It’s a beautiful song, and the band could really expand on this sound. The real problem with the album is how it only excels at the new sound on a few tracks. The 14 track album goes on for too long and could have easily lost a few tracks. Priceless
, Beware! Criminal
, and Agoraphobia
all detract from the album, going nowhere throughout the track. Zee Deveel
may be a bit too strange for the band. It goes out on a strange, clumsy swing eighth note style. Brandon sings with a sort of arrogance, but they are some of his worst on the album. In the grand scheme of Incubus’ career, A Crow Left of the Murder will end up as a stepping stone, a transition phase from the Dirk Lance era to the Ben Kenney era. The album allows for many new expansions and explorations for Incubus, and hopefully the band continues to explore new sounds.
Talk Shows on Mute
Sick Sad Little World
Here in my Room