Incubus is imperfect on first album in six years

'8' never reaches full potential


Incubus' latest album released with mixed results.

Few artists with eight albums under their belt and careers spanning over two decades have been able to successfully reinvent their sound while managing to remain relevant. From their early nü-metal stylings to the more introspective, easy-listening rock of “If Not Now, When?,” Incubus has never sought sonic comfort.

What makes this approach to music all the more impressive is Incubus has been able to exercise this musical spring-cleaning while still appealing to a major audience. With over 23 million albums sold, the band is no lightweight in the alternative rock scene. It is precisely for this reason that “8” is such an irksome listen.

There are moments on this project where Incubus shines through with mercurial creativity, drawing from multiple inspirations and creating a cohesive and identifiable sound. However, this album is also marred with lackluster chord progressions and song sections, and these cliched shortcomings add up quickly.

The album was produced by Dave Sardy and later re-produced and mixed by Skrillex, a close friend of the band. Despite two engineered quality controls, one of which came from a modern super-producer, the production on the album at times sounds muddy and cluttered. This is especially true on the lead single “Nimble Bastard.”

Upon first listen, these issues unfortunately tarnish an otherwise pleasurable listening experience. The album opens with the kind of adrenaline-fueled, alternative rock barn-burner fans of the band would be happy to hear. Following “No Fun” are singles “Nimble Bastard” and “Glitterbomb.” While “Nimble Bastard” feels like the band’s attempt at creating an arena-rock setlist, “Glitterbomb” sees the band returning to harder riffs, interesting key changes and an increased presence of DJ Kilmore.

The track “Loneliest,” while not mind-blowing from a technical perspective, shows how well the band can adapt to modern sounds through the use of modulated synths and electronic drum kits. Another peculiarity of “8” is the perceived Tom Morello-inspired guitar riffage. “Love in a Time of Surveillance” sounds like an Audioslave cover, and the solo on “Glitterbomb” sounds like a Rage Against the Machine jam session.

Sonically, this album sees the band experimenting with many different sounds but never committing to a final idea. “Make No Sound in the Digital Forest” showcases vibrant electronic texturing, and “Throw Out the Map” makes it clear that Incubus has not lost their cutting edge. After listening to such satisfactory songs, it is difficult to reconcile the existence of a song like “State of the Art,” which sounds like a grittier version of a Train song, making it all the more disappointing.

The risky approach of perpetual musical rejuvenation values possible innovation over the comfort of the tried and true. Much has changed within the band since their last studio album release six years ago. However, it is reassuring to know the spirit of adventure is still there. 

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