Incubus – If Not Now, When? – Review

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There hasn’t been many artists that release a defining album every time they go to record a new effort. Starting from their shroom-loving beginnings with their funk-metal debut, “Fungus Amongus,” to the well-balanced and critically acclaimed “Make Yourself,” to the artsy and quick, “A Crow Left Of The Murder” and all the other evolving pieces in between, Incubus has always redefined themselves and never pandered to the masses — for the most part. For this reason alone, no one should be surprised that Brandon Boyd and the rest of the crew would have inked an album focused around romance and “about love and finding art and success in love.” The difference in subject matter will naturally change the bands sound. Welcome to the hard to swallow pill, “If Not Now, When?

Oh what people do with their free time. During the long hiatus the band took after releasing their well received album “Light Grenades,” the bands more prominent members, vocalist Brandon and guitarist Mike Einziger, enrolled in an LA art class and joined Harvard to study music composition, respectively. The time of introspection has made for a more simplistic and calm release, a far cry from songs like the amped up “Nice To Know You,” or “Make A Move.” And those who know Incubus and have followed their beginnings will know that the band has a propensity to nurture a ranging jazzy-tinged rock sound, where an effort can sport a song that is perfect for night cruising, “Drive,” yet also support a track that will get your head bobbing like “Make Yourself“‘s opener, “Privilege.” “If Not Now, When?” goes strictly against the established grain, choosing soothing ambiance exclusively. So acoustic-backed, string-aided, heart warming songs like “Friends & Lovers” will either feel like a hit or miss for fans.

If you can take this new album at face value, you will find one of Incubus‘ most thought out and personal records to date. Even turntablist Chris Kilmore improved his repertoire, learning to play the piano during the hiatus and thus adding his keyboards to this already heavily sonic-based effort. Most listeners however will cry foul at the lack of harder songs on “If Not Now, When?” because it is difficult to take something at face value when we have relied on Incubus to merge rock, jazz, and soul without compromising the potency of any of its ingredients. “The Original” feels especially light, featuring what amounts to elevator music — ambient instrumentation that plays no louder then rain drops hitting the grass on a dewy morning. Only the diranged and sexual end of “In The Company Of Wolves” which bends bass and percussion together with shredding guitars for the albums only heavy outing.

However you feel about the guys in Incubus, you have to admire them for their self-improvement and choosing to explore an unbeaten musical path. But — and this is a very large but — this is one of the most boring albums from an artist I was excited to hear this year. “If Not Now, When?” may have all the right intentions, but it has lost the band its bite. And even Brandon’s always beautiful vocals and clever lyrics — “Why should the thieves have all of the fun? Selling us water by the river, they don’t speak for everyone.” from “Thieves” — aren’t quite enough to help pick this airy ambient stroll through atmospheric musical composition out of the clouds and bring it back down to earth. [Staff]

Score: 3 (out of 5)

Release Date: July 12th, 2011
Record Label: Epic Records
Genre: Alternative Rock

RIYL: Foo Fighters, Silverchair, Audioslave

Track Listing:
1. If Not Now, When?
2. Promises, Promises
3. Friends and Lovers
4. Thieves
5. Isadore
6. The Original
7. Defiance
8. In the Company of Wolves
9. Switchblade
10. Adolescents
11. Tomorrow’s Food

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