If Not Now, When?: JCS on the new Incubus
James Christopher Sheppard reviews
If Not Now, When?
It’s getting on for five years since established American rock band Incubus last released an entire album of new material, so expectations from their legions of fans are astronomical for new release If Not Now, When? This new album is their seventh release since Fungus Amongus, their 1995 debut and follows their longest break between releases. Fans will be pleased to know that If Not Now, when? does not disappoint…
‘If Not Now, When?’ 8/10
The first track is minimalist and a calm introduction to the album, lead largely around Brandon Boyd’s mesmerizing and unmistakable vocal. The sound Incubus have spent years crafting is as present as it was on 2001’s Morning View. ‘If Not Now, When?’ may not be an instant thunderbolt of a song, but with each listen, improves and yearns to be heard over and over.
‘Promises, Promises’ 8/10
First fully released single from the album, ‘Promises, Promises’, is not what is typically expected from a lead single from a new Incubus release. This is less ‘Megalomaniac’ or ‘Anna Molly’ and more ‘Are You In?’. Still, ‘Promises, Promises’ is an uplifting piano lead moment of funky lightheartedness and one that will be welcomed by many.
‘Friends and Lovers’ 7/10
Another chilled out track, ‘Friends and Lovers’, has a sweet melody and is executed brilliantly, but is not a stand out moment amongst the collection.
Out of soppyville, ‘Thieves’ provides some brilliant lyrics and the most upbeat song yet. ‘Everything is fine, so long as you’re a god-fearing white American’ Boyd sings against the charming mid-tempo backdrop. Nice to see Boyd is his band mates haven’t lost their provoking lyric writing talents!
The beats are slightly harder and heavier, yet the laid back mood continues. The lyrics here are the most vivid and story-telling on the album. Erica and Isadore appear to be riding a balloon to the moon, but Erica takes the only parachute, abandoning Isadore. I’d love to see an animated video for ‘Isadore’. This is addictive and layered and deserves several listens.
‘The Original’ 8/10
Boyd’s velvety tones are what makes ‘The Original’; that and the progressive build. The last minute builds into an epic multi-layered which is very welcomed at this point in the album, but the lyrics are a little too sickly for me, with ‘Girl you’re the original. Always were, always will be’, nevertheless I’m sure many guitar playing boys will enjoy serenading their girlfriends with this one.
A purely acoustic guitar driven song, ‘Defiance’ is a stunning song that shows the band’s raw talent and ability to really deliver in a minimalistic way.
‘In the Company of Wolves’ 10/10
Over seven minutes of brilliance is ‘In the Company of Wolves’. The acoustic feel remains, and Boyd uses his voice like a well-oiled instrument. The song features several different techniques and sounds and progresses from soft acoustic, to an almost organic brooding mid-section, to an instrumental epic finale. Absolutely mesmerising!
‘Switch Blade’ 8/10
Boyd is apparently being attacked by a girl in a black hat? ‘Switch Blade’ has the most nonsensical lyrics on the album and provides a fitting moment of relief from otherwise very mellow and grown up album. Still, ‘Switch Blade’ is a very different track for the band.
‘Adolescents’ is heavier than it first seems. Crank up the volume or witness it being performed live (as I had the fortune to do last week at the HMV Forum) and you will have a whole new respect for the power of the song. Possibly the most commercially appealing song on the album, ‘Adolescents’ is energetic and mesmerising.
‘Tomorrow’s Food’ 9/10
A fitting close to the album, ‘Tomorrow’s Food’ has a complex calm orchestral feel. While Boyd sings ‘There’s no such thing as the end of the world’, he poignantly points out that we are tomorrow’s food, today, maybe highlighting our insignificance. It is beautiful, moving, kind of inspiring and kind of sad.
Incubus have evolved into a sophisticated band and If Not Now, When? is their calmest and most mellow album to date. As with all Incubus albums, this is completely different to any of their previous releases, but stays true to their highly individual sound. If you want heavy, chuck Make Yourself or S.C.I.E.N.C.E on, but buy this too, for those days you want to really listen- there’s a whole lot going on here. 9/10
JCS is the regular music critic for Eyewear; a graduate of Kingston University's acclaimed Creative Writing BA, he currently divides his time between Hull and London, where he is working on a book about growing up gay during the Blair Years.