If Not Now, When?

Written by: PP on 03/08/2011 22:19:50

You could argue that "If Not Now, When?", the seventh studio album by Incubus and their first in five years, is simultaneously their most straight-forward and most experimental album in their illustrious career where no two albums have sounded exactly alike. From the unpredictable grooves on the nu-metal piece "S.C.I.E.N.C.E" and the mainstream rock cuts on "Make Yourself" through the pop ballads of "Morning View" and the experimental approach to "A Crow Left Of The Murder", the best way to describe their music has always been just to refer to it as 'Incubus rock' and leave it at that. No other band has been able to take alternative rock and bend it in such an original and unique manner as they have done over the years, which is why the band seems to be able to do no wrong. That is, until the release of "If Not Now, When?", which is the first album that sees Incubus stumble in both songwriting and mainstream appeal since "Fungus Amongus".

But to get back to the opening argument: "If Not Now, When?" is both an experimental album and a poppy one at the same time. That may sound like a paradox, but when you compare two songs like the title track and the seven-and-a-half-minute (!) "In The Company Of Wolves", the reasoning becomes all the more clear. The first one represents the majority of tracks on this album, a soft, dreamy, Incubus ballad in the vein of "Are You In" from the "Morning View" era. Except where the latter was a magnificent piece of poppy alternative rock with a climaxing chorus that took Brandon Boyd's angelic voice to heights never heard before from him in the past, the songs on "If Not Now, When?" appear to miss such climaxes and interest points almost altogether. Many of the songs just drift forward casually and seemingly without purpose, featuring few soaring choruses or quintessential Incubus moments which give you back chills. Yes, you can argue that "Promises, Promises" sees the soft and relaxed side of Incubus at its very best, but it is but one track among many that feel like drags. Frankly, many of them are outright boring, saved only by the godlike voice of Brandon Boyd who still sings better than any other alternative rock singer save for maybe Matthew Bellamy. Hey emo/post-hardcore bands: this is how a great singer sounds like. Real, honest, mature, and effortlessly hitting his range and beyond.

The second kind of track that you'll find on the album, albeit in the minority, is a song like "In The Company Of Wolves". It sounds almost like a post-rock track with its ambience and seemingly never-ending progression, that breaks into meaningless noise and distortion halfway through, before insulting Boyd's voice with a boatload of effects changing it away from its natural quality. Not all tracks go as far into the world of experimentalism as that one, but a lingering feeling of ambience and echoing sounds exists throughout the album, minus the single material, of course. Perhaps the best way to put it is that nearly all of "If Not Now, When?" is an album full of Incubus ballads, which have been distorted and bent with experimental rock elements that feel slightly out-of-place when contrasted with Boyd's magnificent pipes.

Yes, "Adolescents", and especially "Thieves" are good Incubus tracks, and avoid the meh mood that tags along on most other tracks, but are they sufficiently good to be classified as great tracks? Having listened to all output from Incubus and loving everything they've released (except "Fungus Amongus", that album stinks), these aren't exactly tracks that live up to their best material. You certainly can't argue them to match "Anna Molly", "Circles", "Talk Shows On Mute", "Pistola", "Wish You Were Here", "Privilege", "Drive", "Pardon Me" or any of the other highlight tracks from their previous albums. Me, I'm having trouble comparing them even to the secondary tier of songs on any of the Incubus albums, which means they're still good, but lack the star-power that would catapult this album to similar success as its predecessors. If anything, "If Not Now, When?" is a disappointing album, mostly because it sounds so uninspired and weak when paralleled with any other Incubus material from the last 14 years.

Download: Thieves, Adolescents, Promises Promises, Isadore
For the fans of: Far, Cage 9, Ciccone Ritchie, Water & Bodies
Listen: Soundcloud

Release date 12.07.2011
Epic / Immortal

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