If Incubus should have learned anything by now, it’s that you can’t please everyone, and considering the hard shifts in styles they’ve taken over the last twenty years, it’s bound to have sunk in. They started with nu-metal and funk-metal on their 1997 breakthrough S.C.I.E.N.C.E before taking the shift into more alternative, melodic sounds, perhaps most resolutely on 2001’s Morning View. But continuing down that route eventually led to 2011’s If Not Now, When?, an album of dull, colourless, easy-listening pap that remains utterly forgettable to this day. And with such a fluctuation in sound inevitably comes a similar response in terms of fans, particularly with that last album that just felt like it alienated everyone.
By comparison, 8 feels like Incubus’ attempt at damage control, mashing together the various styles from across their career in order to placate anyone who’s even had a passing interest. And – big surprise – it’s just as rigid and cumbersome as it sounds. And really, that shouldn’t be the case, as there are moments and ideas on here that do actually work. It seems as though they’ve finally picked up some energy again on tracks like No Fun and Love In A Time Of Surveillance that mightn’t stray too far from regular hard rock but are enjoyable regardless, and Brandon Boyd is once again the far-and-away standout feature of this album, with his careening, effortlessly charismatic vocals that flow brilliantly over smoother tracks like Glitterbomb and Familiar Faces.
But even on the most fundamental level, Incubus still manage to find hurdles to trip over, namely in the fact that they can’t even pretend to be interested or switched on for the bulk of this album. State Of The Art runs out of steam early on so unnecessarily pads itself out with needless meandering, and the instrumental snoozer Make No Sound In The Digital Forest plods and drones in a manner that couldn’t be more inert, all while the album peppers itself with too many corny lyrics to truly be acceptable. The absolute nadir comes in When I Became A Man, a cod-mambo skit where Boyd croons about taking a shower, the sort of thing that feels like a studio outtake in terms of both content and fidelity, and that honestly would’ve been better staying that way.
To be at least somewhat fair to Incubus, 8‘s most widespread flaws can’t be attributed to the band. That dubious honour instead goes to Skrillex, drafted in to produce at the very last minute and who completely steamrolls over this album in terms of any richness or texture. The area that suffers the most comes in the drums, which are frequently crushed into clunky, hollow thuds (Nimble Bastard sounds like José Pasillas is playing on a Tupperware box rather than a kit), or in the case of Loneliest, thrown out entirely for a weedy beat. Beyond that is a mix that might be sleek, but drained of any life away from the isolated, meatier guitar tones, not helped whatsoever by the blasé nature of the band themselves.
Still, chances are that no one will remember this album. Hell, it’ll be a shock if the band themselves remember this one, as it’s such a tedious listen, bereft of any memorability. 8 is nothing more than a band spinning its wheels, desperately grasping for something to get out there to hold onto any shreds of relevance they may have. It’s not even that it’s an entirely terrible album either, but one where its rushed job couldn’t be more evident throughout. Incubus won’t please everyone these days, but surely pleasing at least some people would be preferable to no one.
For fans of: Muse, Hoobastank, 311
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘8’ by Incubus is out now on Island Records.