Review Summary: The sound of a tired band going through the motions.
It’s a sad feeling when you find out that a band you once loved simply does not care about making music anymore. This is how I felt after listening to Incubus’ 8
. It’s not even that
terrible of an album; by mainstream rock standards, it’s listenable and inoffensive, for the most part. But when you remember that this is the same band that released edgy, energetic, boundary-pushing albums such as S.C.I.E.N.C.E.
, Make Yourself
, and the sublime Morning View
, it’s hard to listen to 8
without a modicum of disappointment lingering in the back of your head.
These guys are talented – they’ve proved it time and time again – and they can succeed without former powerhouse bassist Dirk Lance, evidenced by the infectious A Crow Left of the Murder
and the intermittently brilliant Light Grenades
. Brandon Boyd is among the most zany and unique vocalists in the genre; Mike Einziger is a masterful songwriter who can blend fusion, soft rock, and heavy metal like it’s nobody’s business. 8
leaves you doubting all of these things. There are no signs of the creative spark that drove Incubus to the forefront of the alternative rock scene in the late ‘90s. 8
is little more than a compilation of insipid, lifeless pop songs that could have been written by any generic radio rock band. Brandon Boyd is arguably the weakest link on this album, as much as it pains me to admit. His hooks aren’t as affably eccentric as they once were; in fact, they can be downright grating. Einziger is indistinguishable here. None of these riffs have the off-kilter charm that songs like ‘Anna Molly’ and ‘Sick Sad Little World’ thrived on. The closest we get to an upbeat riff-driven rocker is the Rage Against the Machine
-esque ‘Love in a Time of Surveillance’, one of the album highlights; and even then, it sounds more like a hollow, calculated attempt to recapture their heavy roots rather than an authentic product of a fun-loving rock band. Some of these faults can be attributed to the abysmal production, helmed by Skrillex
no less. Since the vocals are glaringly front-and-center whenever Boyd is singing, which is practically all of the time, the instrumentals are left sounding like a muddled afterthought. But even if there was production value here, the songs themselves just aren’t very good.
is not without its redeemable qualities, however few there are. The final four tracks provide mild surface-level enjoyment. ‘Familiar Faces’ has a soothing, ethereal atmosphere that acts as a breath of fresh air after the abominable interlude ‘When I Became a Man’. The aforementioned ‘Love in a Time of Surveillance’ is a serviceable banger; ‘Make No Sound in the Digital Forest’ has the distinction of being a rare Incubus instrumental with a pleasant, laid back groove holding it together; and ‘Throw Out the Map’ has an old Incubus-sounding chorus and closes the album on an upbeat note. The quality of the remaining songs can be aptly measured by the amount of times you wince during their runtimes. ‘No Fun’ and ‘Loneliest’ are tepid hard rock and minimalist pop tracks respectively, so there’s not much to wince at. ‘Glitterbomb’ and the mere presence of ‘When I Became a Man’, however, are bound to trigger some grimaces from even the most devoted Incubus fans.
In a nutshell, 8
lacks any semblance of creativity that separated Incubus from every other radio rock band in the past. Trust Fall
hinted at a return to the catchy, carefree Incubus of old, but that was a fluke and a lie. The only positive effect 8
has in Incubus’ discography is that it makes If Not Now, When?
sound like Make Yourself
in comparison. 8
is a disappointment in every sense of the word. It’s the sound of a tired band going through the motions, and the worst part is that we don’t know if Incubus will ever recover. Here’s to hoping that they restore their creative spark for number 9.