Incubus is one of those bands I will always like. I may have fallen away from their more recent output, but I will always search out their new music to hear it, in the very least. The band released a new EP, “Trust Fall, Side B”, on April 17th, and I have to say that this is the best thing I’ve heard from them in almost a decade.
Incubus come to us from California, and they’ve been around since the late 80s. They aren’t progressive, per se, but they have dabbled in it, and their music has always felt ambitious, artistic, and out of the ordinary. The lineup, after all these years, still includes: Brandon Boyd on lead vocals, percussion, and some guitar; Mike Einziger on lead guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals; José Pasillas II on drums; Chris “DJ” Kilmore on turntables, keyboards, theremin, synthesizers, and piano; and Ben Kenney on bass, backing vocals, and additional keyboards.
Now, for a disclaimer, I have to put it out there that my wife and I have loved Incubus for at least 25 years. We listened to them constantly through high school and our twenties, and we’ve seen them live. They were my wife’s favorite band for many years, actually. With their 2011 album “If Not Now, When?”, we just didn’t connect, at least not for some time. It took us years to appreciate that album fully, and, if you’ve seen my reviews for “Trust Fall, Side A” and their last studio album “8”, you will know that I really haven’t appreciated their most recent output. I felt like the band didn’t grow up with the fans in some ways, or perhaps that the music was no longer the point of their existence, as weird as that sounds. On top of that, Brandon seemed to be losing his voice, and I prayed to the musical gods that he would let his magical voice rest for a couple years.
Needless to say, I was ready for something good out of their camp. “Trust Fall, Side B” doesn’t reach the heights of past offerings, but it does give us plenty of nostalgic moments and interesting cues for the future. For one things, Mike’s guitars are back in a way that they haven’t been since “Light Grenades”. In fact, this EP sounds like it could be part of that album, with its steely, shining, jangling guitar lines. Ben’s bass is also back in the mix, as it seemed missing in action on “8” along with Mike’s guitars. Additionally, Chris’ keyboards really shine here, having an 80s bent at times, along with some luscious piano. José, perhaps the most consistent member of the band, sounds great here, as well.
As for Brandon, I think this is the best he has sounded in years. The band supposedly avoided “studio trickery” with this release, so how he sounds here is supposedly how he actually sounds. Granted, Brandon’s voice is one of a kind, and it seems notoriously difficult to capture sometimes. Regardless, he sounds great here, and actually holds various notes in a way he hasn’t since “Light Grenades”. I was overjoyed to hear his warm tones again.
This EP has only five songs, two of which were released as singles. I will venture to say that they are the weakest two songs, but I still really like them. “Into the Summer” debuted last year with a retro 80s video that smacked of The Lost Boys, and I did not immediately love it. Since then, I’ve really come to appreciate the beautiful keys and Brandon’s inventive vocal lines. I find myself singing it quite often. “Our Love” actually sounds like an arena version of 90s Incubus, and so I like it quite well, even though it feels a bit “high school” lyrically.
The other three songs are wonderful. “Karma, Come Back” is a little repetitive in the lyrical department, but I love the slow-burning vibe that blasts wide open with Mike’s guitars. It is almost like a “he’s back!” statement from the band. “On Without Me” is my favorite on the EP. It is also the longest and most complex song. I love the warm verses, giant chorus, and the sweet keyboards in the second half. I really love this song. Lastly, “Paper Cuts” feels like a statement from Brandon about his voice. It ends the EP with a ballad format, just Brandon and piano. He muses and exercises his chords with precision I didn’t know he still possessed, and it’s just an overall great song that I feel will sound amazing live if he can handle it.
Overall, this isn’t a complete resurgence of Incubus, but it gives me just enough nostalgia that I have hope for the future. The lyrics still come across as slightly behind the fans’ age range, but I can’t fault the band too much for that. Many of the lyrics are still very well written, if a little repetitive, and they don’t normally come across as cheesy, even if the vocal melodies do just a bit. Still, I really like this EP, and I hope the next studio album builds on this foundation.
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