Saturday, 2 June 2012

Incubus - If Not Now, When?

If Not Now, When? Surprised a lot of people when it was released back in 2011, especially fans of earlier Incubus work such as Make Yourself (1999) and A Crow Left Of The Murder (2004). These were brash, hectic records. The band themselves had built a following on the back of the success of bands like Linkin Park and Papa Roach. While they didn't follow the Rap/Rock paint-by-numbers methods of the aforementioned bands, on quite a few of their songs the similarities were definitely noticeable.
INNW was released 5 years after their last LP, Light Grenades. Produced by Brendon O'Brien, it shot straight in at number 1 in the Billboard 100 and has since been certified gold. Expectedly, the album had a more simpler, catchier approach than previous efforts.
So fast forward 5 years and step forward, in my eyes, the greatest album Incubus have ever made. Gone was the rampant aggression and snarl from previous albums, this was just 50 minutes of music in it's purest form. The band had noted that during the gap between Light Grenades and INNW they decided to make an album that reflected the growth and knowledge of a band pushing 2 decades together. Guitarist Michael Einziger went to study music composition during the 5 year break and his efforts are grand on this records. They were no longer trying to out-volume each other. On INNW you only heard the guitars when you had to.
The most astounding evolution was that of band DJ Chris Kilmore. As his role in the band was changing he's decided to learn piano from scratch. INNW was the sound of a band with their eyes and minds open.
As the opening hum and swirl of the title track fades in, followed by the twinkle of guitars, followed by plodding bass and snare, you really do instantly notice the change in structure. Everything has been put together magnificently. The vocals were slow, but concise, and Brandon is here singing like no one had heard him sing before. The crescendos of each line just sound, for lack of a better word, epic.
Promises, Promises and Isadore are fuller numbers, especially the former with its piano laden middle section. The choruses on this album are truly special. None of them simple for the sake of it, all of them unwittingly catchy. Things pick up even further with Thieves, no sound is sacrificed despite the raise in tempo and instrument volume. Friends And Lovers is fantastic, and my joint favourite track on the album. It's definitely worth catching the video of this online. Boyd's vocals seem to just effortlessly float from a whisper to an exclamation. The pace is dropped for The Original, that is until the crashing outro that seems to almost catch you out, with the build up being so very subtle. Defiance is a charming acoustic effort that will get you singing and ooh-ing along instantly.
I consider the following track, In The Company Of Wolves as the transition track on the album. You get the warm intro and gentle flow of the song, but the ending has every instrument being played so intensely, you wonder if you're listening to the same album. This follows perfectly into the classy Switchblade. Boyd providing just the right amount of swagger with the lyrics, especially in the chorus. Einziger's guitar riff matching the vocals on bravado points every step of the way. This track also showcases the ever brilliant drumming talent of Jose Pasillas. Adolescents will be the only familiar sounding track, especially for listeners of their Light Grenades LP. It almost sounds like an anthem, a statement reading loud and clear. But no louder than it has to be. The final track Tomorrows Food is a perfect ending to what is indeed a perfectly polished and precise album. Every song is different, something which lacks in a lot of mainstream rock albums. I must say I was pleasantly surprised with If Not Now, When? and it has become one of my all time favourite albums. I urge you all to find it and give it a listen.

10/10

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