Twelve years ago, California quintet Incubus was a young alt-metal band equal parts Korn, Faith No More and Red Hot Chili Peppers. With the release of their sixth LP, Light Grenades, they are suddenly finding themselves veterans of melodic, streamlined rock.
This is both a good and bad thing. Their musical maturity has shed a lot of the raw power that brought them into the mainstream, and with it, many of the
band's die-hard fans. But Incubus has shown again and again that they aren't afraid to dive into uncharted (for them) territory, and this results in some fascinating music. Their 2004 album, A Crow Left of the
Murder, was a solid example of this, and Light Grenades continues on this venture into a softer subgenre of alternative rock.
Lead singer Brandon Boyd continues to hone one of the strongest and most consistent voices in today's rock music. The rest of the band holds up their end of the bargain as well, though guitarist Mike Einziger doesn't quite stand out as well as he has on past outings. Only "Pendulous Threads" gives him an opportunity to really showcase his axe-slinging capabilities. The problem Incubus run sinto in their attempt to break away from the clichéd and now very passé nu-metal of the early nineties is that they risk simply falling into a different but equally scowled-upon clique - that of
the soggy, heartbroken slop of Staind and Nickelback. But Incubus is inherently more talented than both of those bands put together, so they only occasionally sound stale and recycled, like the rushed, messy title track that sounds like the band is trying a bit too hard to retain some of its lost bite.
In contrast with that is one of the strongest songs on the set, "Diamonds and Coal." Despite its pedestrian analogy for love, it offers one of the catchiest melodies in the band's entire repertoire. Unfortunately, the
cheesy symbolism of opposites is echoed in another track, "Oil and Water."
Then there's the single, "Anna Molly." The heavy, soaring guitar and beguiling chorus
make it a better first choice for a single than "Megalomaniac" was for Incubus' previous album. It manages more muscle without sounding as clumsily brutish. There are a few curious surprises, as well. "Paper Shoes" opens with an acoustic guitar that sounds eerily similar to Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home," a similarity very few would come to expect from Incubus.
Boyd's band of evolvers has managed to survive their transitional quest fairly unscathed, but how far can they go while still maintaining an audience? Incubus walks a fine line with their musical progression. At this point in their history, following up a listen of Light Grenades with, say, the band's 1997 sophomore album, S.C.I.E.N.C.E., leaves the listener shocked at times that they are actually listening to the same band. But for the most part, the fine-tuning that Incubus has made to their sound is, in fact, an improvement. Only the early shades of hip-hop and funk, which are altogether scrapped at this point, are really missed. Does turntablist Chris Kilmore even have a role in this band anymore? Only time will tell if Incubus can maintain the momentum, but this band has had its share of naysayers to prove wrong in the past, and there's no reason to believe they can't do it again now, or in the future.