8, by Incubus
Suggested by Craig Scott
At school, I was in a covers band called Scooby Doo and the Mystery Machine. A bunch of mates, rocking out, learning to play, performing at pubs before we were legally able to drink.
Aged sixteen, we played a school function. A Teacher’s Dinner, one hundred attendees, in the school hall, fundraising for guttering or tennis balls or something. We were a fledgling, anxious unit, hired by a PE teacher who was talking a chance. We had a limited setlist, mid-range pop-rock classics, All My Loving by the Beatles and Hip to be Square by Huey Lewis. On the night, as the dessert was served, we fired up the amps, and played.
They loved us.
Teachers were dancing midway through song two, a pulsing, jiving, rocking throng, cheering each track with wild applause. We drew confidence from their joy, and played a blinder. Eventually, we ran out of songs, while they yelled for an encore. We asked them what they’d like to hear again, and played that.
Next day, in school? We were heroes.
The following year, we played the anniversary event, as a known quantity much anticipated. We had swagger, arrogance I guess, and a mutated setlist that was more in line with our own tastes and talents. We played Metallica’s version of Stone Cold Crazy, and fringe hits that we liked but failed to ignite the crowd. There was polite applause, but no dancing. We weren’t invited back.
I’ve a history with Incubus. Their EP Enjoy Incubus was one of my favourites in the late Nineties, and I favourably reviewed S.C.I.E.N.C.E. for Album 237. Their pernicious brand of funky alt-metal is up my proverbial street, and I thanked the Randomiser for reminding me of their greatness. When 8, their 2017 release, made the front page, I was a happy camper.
After my listen, I say that 8, by Incubus, has been the biggest disappointment in the project so far.
There’s a gulf of almost twenty years between S.C.I.E.N.C.E. and 8, and in that time the band has progressed from feel-good funk-and-DJ-fuelled irreverent alt-metal with a supreme vocalist to a bland, beige, middle-of-the-road self-absorbed turgid rock soup with, admittedly, a supreme vocalist.
The funk? Gone. The DJ scratching? Gone. The irreverence? Gone. The soul? Gone. In its place, a bunch of boring rock songs that sound like any other number of boring rock songs by any other number of boring rock bands. This was the first album I considered skipping a standout song, but I settled with Nimble Bastard for the title alone.
As this album’s forty minute runtime unfurled, I sat in mute horror, silently praying the next song would show an Incubus-like spark of joy. I was Vito, Incubus were Sonny, this album was Don Barzini’s men. Look how they massacred my boy. Fans of the band had six albums to see the organic development from one sound to the other. Me? I had two waypoints. Much like the Scoobs at the second school gig, the teachers expected one thing and received another, and their enjoyment was much diminished because of it.
This album gets 5/10 on the strength of the vocalist. I understand that bands change, as they inevitably should, but you can’t expect every audience member to change with them.