Incubus – ‘8’ (Album Review)
Incubus are masters of the musical curveball. Ahead of every album they release, the unexpected is the only thing to be expected. Unpredictability and consistent reinvention have been Incubus constants from the day their major label debut SCIENCE dropped.
That day was close to two decades ago – and Incubus are still going strong on 8. To say they’ve been put through the mill in the meantime – especially around the time of their last full-length If Not Now When? – would be something of an understatement. So hearing Incubus re-energized to a greater degree than on 2015’s EP Trust Fall (Side A) is absolutely awesome.
Still, 8 takes some getting used to. On first listen, its first five tracks – namely No Fun, Nimble Bastard, State Of The Art, Glitterbomb, and Undefeated – sounded like relatively unremarkable rock songs mainly made distinctive by Brandon Boyd’s unmistakable vocals and peerless lyricism. The only major exception was Glitterbomb, due to its chorus hook’s instantly gratifying Soundgarden vibes. But with each repeated play, a new layer revealed itself – a true Incubus calling card – and gradually, my mind was changed.
Since A Crow Left Of The Murder first entered my ears back in 2004, every fresh Incubus album has been a grower for me – and four of the first five elevenths of 8 were no different. Loneliest, on the other hand, is without doubt one of the most impactful songs Incubus have ever penned – a cut on which Brandon Boyd’s vocal (consistently stretched to its limits by co-producer Dave Sardy) weighs heavy on a bottomless mix that bears the unmistakable tasteful touches of secret weapon Skrillex. The results are nothing short of gut-wrenching, an instantly immortal tune worth the price of entry on its own.
Incubus have rarely allowed themselves a throwaway novelty moment in the past – but When I Became A Man is such a rarity. Following Loneliest, it does highlight Incubus’s sense of humour – but ultimately 8 is better off without it, segueing instead into original Skrillex collaboration and synth-augmented Police-influenced pop-rocker Familiar Faces. From here on out, 8 is a solid gold winner.
With only three songs left to go, Incubus remain full of surprises. Returning to Soundgarden territory with the dirgy Love In A Time Of Surveillance – another stone cold highlight on an overall par with Loneliest in terms of ab-punching impact – before low-key instrumental interlude Make No Sound In The Digital Forest provides a much-needed breather, we’re all set up for one more full-tilt Rock Song. Throw Out The Map takes us into the home stretch – and anyone who still claims rock to be dead as a dodo needs to give it a listen alongside the rest of 8.
Rock is alive – but nonetheless it remains in need of fresh, original voices and boundary-free innovation. With 8, Incubus have done their bit once again. More bands need to take inspiration from records like this; 8 is crystal clear evidence that despite the sheer volume of hard-edged music that’s out there already, there are still new sounds left to discover.
96% (Essential Listening!)
8 is now available on iTunes here.