INCUBUS – If Not Now, When?

Incubus’s fifth full length release ‘Light Grenades’ is often considered sub-par compared to the band’s previous releases.  True, it doesn’t always have the all-round sophistication of which Incubus are often capable, but it has a sense of energy within the songs.  That’s more than can be said for 2011’s ‘If Not Now, When?’, an album so underwhelming it may as well be audio wallpaper.  Its radio friendly sounds are as flat as the monochrome sleeve art.  As for the title, it almost sums up the feeling of actually waiting for Incubus to do something interesting.   Brandon Boyd puts in heartfelt (but ultimately very samey) vocal performances throughout, but the rest of the band do so little with the musical arrangements, half the time you have to ask if there’s a real band present here at all.  The album is approximately halfway through before a guitar puts in a proper appearance.  75% of the material sounds like Boyd has given some studio engineers a bunch of vocal tracks and asked them to create some musical backdrops.  Most of the songs are completely one-paced with no real peaks, and as a result, nothing here maintains interest for very long.

The sense of doubt regarding this album creeps in quickly, since the disc begins with a pedestrian tune which sounds like it ought to be the mellow number closing the first half.  With a rigid drum pattern, the title cut opens the disc with something more akin to Coldplay or Snow Patrol than Incubus.  The lyrics appear to have a religious bent (which doesn’t help the enjoyment especially); and after a minute or so, nothing’s different: the drum maintains its original click-track style, some bass and keyboards flesh out the sound and the song strolls along never really hitting anything resembling a climax.  ‘Promises, Promises’ is slightly better thanks to the presence of a piano, but is still best described as middling alt-pop music.

‘Friends and Lovers’ may boast the sound of a kettle drum, but it’s punctuating an arrangement which is incredibly bland.  Once again, Boyd’s vocal is fine, but the rest of the band kind of tinker sheepishly with their instruments barely making the smallest of rumbles.  By the time Ben Kinney’s bass even becomes audible, he’s just hitting the odd note to help accompany Boyd on the quietest of moments.  ‘Tomorrow’s Food’ doesn’t really rise above new-age plinky-plunkiness.  It could be said that Mike Einzinger’s finger-picked guitar is well played, but after a couple of minutes it gets boring – all style and no substance.  The instrumental jam which makes up the second half of ‘Company of Wolves’ provides a little light at the end of the tunnel, but even then Incubus sound relatively unenthused.  With its acoustic roots, ‘Isadore’ is okay as far as it goes, in as much that Boyd is vocally strong and the band are tight enough, but it’s still half a world away from more traditional Incubus.  Due to it’s general lack of anything resembling a chorus, though, this is just another number which can be forgotten almost as soon as it’s finished.  The band takes the full acoustic route with the short ‘Defiance’, which has an intro which calls to mind a couple of Led Zeppelin’s gentler numbers.  Like most of ‘If Not Now, When?’, it never quite reaches its full potential, but at least it’s short…

It’s only really with ‘Switchblade’s funk edge things improve noticeably, since here, Incubus actually sound like a real band again.  The drumming has a nice offbeat style, the bass lines actually have a presence and the guitar riffs bring a slightly edgy tone.  Despite a huge step in the right direction, it’s still far from classic Incubus, since in truth, a few years earlier, this would have been considered filler.  Despite a reasonable riff a which hits relatively hard coupled with a great vocal, the single release ‘Adolescents’ still a sense of “could try harder”.  There’s the feeling of a ‘Make Yourself’ leftover surrounding this track, but at least the band sound like a band pulling together once again, and not just a bunch of guys backing Boyd’s vocals and lyrics.  Even Einzinger gets an opportunity to play a fairly upfront guitar solo.  It’s a shame they couldn’t have found a better chorus, but at least they sound like they’re actually interested in what they’re doing.

It’s hard to believe we waited almost five years for Incubus to return and this is all we get.  Two half decent songs?  Representing the sound of “alternative” music which sounds like it was written with the shopping mall in mind, ‘If Not Now, When?’ is a seriously dull record.  The idea of a band wanting to record something more commercial is fine, but this release is severely lacking in anything which grabs the attention.  ‘Switchblade’ aside, there’s barely a hint of ‘Nice To Know You’ or ‘Anna Molly’ here, let alone the crunchiness ‘Privilege’ or the brilliant funkiness of ‘The Warmth’.  It has far more in common with Brandon Boyd’s alt-pop solo release ‘The Wild Trapeze’ than anything released under the Incubus name previously.  If you want the Brandon Boyd show, then fine, but there’s so more to Incubus than that…or at least there used to be.

According to Boyd, the band “recorded these songs at the same time as writing them…a process [they]’ve never done before”.  In which case, maybe it’s a process they shouldn’t try again in the future.  Maybe spending some time actually analysing the material after it was written could have given the band a bit more perspective; perhaps they could have looked at these songs and realised how lacking most of them are.

July 2011

Aussie rock legends Cold Chisel plan new album for 2012

It may have been over a decade since Cold Chisel released a studio album (1998’s reunion disc, ‘The Last Wave of Summer’), but the Aussie rockers say they’ve been busy writing and recording on and off over the past year.  The recordings will make up the band’s seventh studio disc, due for release sometime in 2012.

The news comes shortly after frontman Jimmy Barnes completed a 2011 tour, which saw him visit the UK for the first time in a decade.

Steve Prestwich, the band’s long-serving drummer, passed away in January 2011.  However, he was present at the recording sessions and will feature on the album.

Between October and December 2011, Cold Chisel will be touring the whole of Australia – their biggest tour in 30 years – and plan on debuting a couple of the new songs during the long run of shows.  Replacing Prestwich at the live shows will be Charley Drayton (DiVinyls, Keith Richards’ Expensive Winos).

Unsurprisingly, Chisel have no current plans to play any shows outside of Australia.


RIP Steve Prestwich.
Read a review of Cold Chisel’s ‘Circus Animals’ here.

Journey: “City of Hope” video

AOR legends Journey have released a video clip for their current single ‘City of Hope’.

The clip features footage of the band in performance and visiting Manila, and can be seen here.

‘City of Hope’ is the lead track from Journey’s fourteenth studio album ‘Eclipse’, released on Frontiers Records in May 2011.  The album has been a relative success for the band, despite many fans bemoaning the absence of long-time vocalist Steve Perry, who provided the voice on all of Journey’s biggest and best known hits, including ‘Who’s Crying Now’, ‘Open Arms’, ‘Any Way You Want It’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believin”.

‘Eclipse’ reached #13 on the US Billboard chart, in addition to hitting the top 40 in the UK and the top 20 in both Germany and Japan.

Read a review of Journey’s ‘Eclipse’ here.

JUDAS PRIEST – Sad Wings Of Destiny

Judas Priest’s debut album, 1974’s ‘Rocka Rolla’ hints at a potentially very talented band, but is ultimately let down by some plodding arrangements and somewhat leaden production values.  Everything about Priest’s second album, ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ (issued by Gull Records in 1976) is in a completely different league, right down to the fantastic album artwork (‘Fallen Angels’ painted by Patrick Woodroffe).

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Flea: “We wrote 70 songs for the new Red Hot Chili Peppers record”

In an interview with the BBC, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea has stated that when working on their upcoming album ‘I’m With You’, the band wrote seventy songs for consideration. With regards to only a mere fourteen of those making the final cut, the bassist says: “What was important to us when we put the record together was to make sure that each song filled its own space and was not like another song on the record. We wrote 70 songs, so it’s not even necessarily all the best ones that we put on, but just the ones that occupy their own space.

The final track listing for ‘I’m With You’ (UK release, 29th August) is as follows:

1. Monarchy of Roses
2. Factory of Faith
3. Brendan’s Death Song
4. Ethiopia
5. Annie Wants a Baby
6. Look Around
7. The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie
8. Did I Let You Know
9. Goodbye Hooray
10. Happiness Loves Company
11. Police Station
12. Even You Brutus?
13. Meet Me at the Corner
14. Dance, Dance, Dance