Over the past few years I’ve gotten the sense that Incubus has become one of those bands that still makes new music only to have it compared to their climactically good old days. After all, at the turn of the century Incubus had created a trifecta of albums that even today seem unparalleled and inspired. Now with a new album entitled If Not Now, When?, Incubus has completed a new trilogy that has been severely underwhelming in comparison.
Listening to this new album is like grabbing at wet sand; just when you think you’ve got a hold on a groove or a melody it slips wistfully away. While it is immediately apparent that If Not Now, When? is a slower paced album, I do not feel as though it is the source of its shortcomings. After all, many of Incubus’s most successful moments have been slower laid back songs like “Stellar”, “Wish You Were Here”, “Here in My Room”, and “Oil and Water”. In fact, the songwriting approach is actually the most appealing aspect of this album and it is in the vocals where I lose interest. Front man Brandon Boyd comes off, not as a poor singer, but as an uninspired songwriter.
Three of the best tracks on this album are given upfront; a slow building climactic opener that features unique instrumentation such as timpani, a pop oriented radio single, and a slow moving ballad that will give “Wish You Were Here” a run for its money with the ladies. It’s on the fourth track “Theives” were the album begins to take a dive. Surprisingly, the track starts off with an engaging oriental inspired lick only to be butchered by Boyd’s cringe worthy lyrics “When will I get mine or must I be a God fearing white American”. Such is the case with a majority of the album. While the rest of the tracks don’t suffer as much as “Thieves” they often come off as intangible and static; moving slowly without any captivating moments.
It is doubtful that this new album will bring Incubus any new attention that they didn’t already have. Luckily, I recognized a while ago that Incubus is a band that has already paid their dues and will most likely never write albums the same way again. With this I find myself content in a few phenomenal tracks and simply dismiss the rest.
Album Highlights: If Not Now, When? , Promises, Promises, Friends and Lovers, Adolescents
Album Low Points: Thieves, Switchblade