Review Summary: Unfairly maligned. Soft crap. This album gets defecated on just for how different it is, and it just doesn't deserve it.
You see, I never listened to albums on end until 2012.
That was when I already knew the radio was utter garbage, and I wanted to discover music on my own. Incubus instantly became one of my go to bands after I looked at the intro to an old game called "Motocross Madness 2". The song it used was "New Skin". It's still one of my favorite Incubus songs.
I listened to S.C.I.E.N.C.E. and I really liked all the tracks a lot
, even though they seemed a bit weird.
I listened to Make Yourself for the first time and it was soon on repeat for every week for a whole year.
Morning View took a while to come around to, but between it and S.C.I.E.N.C.E., I view it as a hallmark
of good songwriting, possibly from an objective standpoint the best album they've ever written, and it was soon played as much as the last two albums.
I despised A Crow Left Of The Murder with a passion, but soon came to love it for mixing aspects of the previous albums, even if it was slightly lesser in quality.
Light Grenades was an album I liked much sooner, but its appeal has also worn off on me a lot faster, though I think it's roughly as good as the previous album.
And, oh boy, then I listened to If Not Now, When?
and I took a disliking to it 10 times more than ACLOTM. It seemed to be missing everything the previous albums had. I especially disliked how similar the first 3 tracks were. What the heck happened to the lyrics? Why does Boyd want to be the rabbit in the hat to the magician that is supposedly his romantic interest? Why do I care???
After 20 listens, I began to pick up on a lot of subtleties. The tracks seem to carry a mood that just doesn't click until you notice it after that many times. It just didn't sound very good until I started to listen to it in the right mood. The focus on a lot of these tracks seemed to not be the lyrics themselves but the undercurrent of subtle feelings behind them. I can trash the lyrics to "Promises, Promises" all I want, but I can no longer say I don't like to listen to it. I came around to its aesthetic feel. I can't really explain why, but its weirdly enjoyable. It is hardly one of the best tracks on the album, though. Far from it.
You can hear distinct guitar riffs for the first time on "Thieves" and its something I notice more every time. Though I enjoy it a bit more than the last track, no matter how much I listen to it, it doesn't seem like the real meat of the album yet. It's a buildup to what's coming in the middle of the album.
"Isadore" is the first time the emotional undercurrents hinted at before come sweeping up right in your face. The obviously poignant lyrics correlate with the crooning instrumentals and the line "It's not who you were... it's who you are" really brings it out, occasionally causing me to get mild chills when I hear the high-pitched guitar strumming that closes it out, and the mood carries on to the next track.
"The Original" tries to carry the same kind of mood as "Promises, Promises", only it does it 5 times more effectively, despite the incredibly cheesy lyrics. But the entire song builds to what I believe is the climax of the album is, the one minute of sonic abrasiveness at the end of the track. And I enjoy hearing it more every time I listen to this album.
The rest of the album is really low-key for the most part, except "In The Company of Wolves". Dang it, I love this song. From the intro to the thumping bass line to the haywire guitar feedback in the later half of the song. I love all of it. It is the one song in their discography that you can truly call progressive. I cannot say enough good things about it.
The reason I haven't mentioned any of the other tracks is just because they're so middling in quality. The three tracks above are really the only true highlights. Everything feels too much of the same to call this excellent in consistent quality. None of it is truly abysmal but, especially pertaining to the first 3 tracks, it comes so close to being average that it can't stand up to other tracks. But I would want to get into an argument with someone who felt this was their best album. Seriously
. You can't justify the seeming lack of interesting qualities in many of the tracks.
This album, being what it is, cannot compete with even Light Grenades. It is just not good enough. I'd take "Mexico" (from Morning View) over "Promises, Promises" any day. It was really beginning to show diminishing returns at this point in Incubus's career. It doesn't have enough standouts to be considered excellent, barely being great on its own standards. Despite having a reputation as the black sheep
in Incubus's discography especially on this site
, I would say I disagree and that many people instantly dismissed it after 5 listens or just plain outright hate the aesthetic of this album. I cannot say what I feel about the next album, but something tells me it might be much, much worse