August 11, 2020

Music Review: In Mourning

posted on: Thursday November 8, 2001

Dan Devine

Album Info:IncubusMorning ViewEpic I think I’ve figured out why I dislike Incubus. It’s not because they’re all power chords and no heart, or because I don’t think anyone in the band could write a decent lyric to save his life. Nor is it because, when belting it out to the back row, singer Brandon Boyd sounds an awful lot like the nameless rock icon parodied so effectively by Tenacious D’s Jack Black. It’s because Incubus consistently comes off as a third-rate Seattle band that took a road trip to Southern California, got all the right tattoos, started hanging out on the beach at night, and developed an astronomy jones. Incubus is Candlebox with a DJ and a better public relations push, and that simply ain’t cool. In a bio posted on Incubus’ official website, Boyd talks earnestly about his affinity for “eccentric people” (“old storytellers … magicians, painters and poets for example”) and his overwhelming desire to “circumvent the conventionalism” prevalent in music and in modern society. While his sentiments might be sincere, his ability to transcend musical boundaries sorely lacks, as evidenced on Incubus’s fifth LP, Morning View. I don’t know which prospect I find scarier: that Boyd and company (guitarist Mike Einziger, bassist Dirk Lance, drummer Jose Pasillas and, on the ones and twos, DJ Kilmore) see Morning View as their best record yet, or that they might be right. An uninspired collection of songs presumably about inspiration, Morning View rides all the way to Shangri-La-Di-Da on the coattails of alt-rock linchpins like the “quiet verse-loud chorus-quiet verse” song construction perfected on Nevermind, Layne Staley’s trademark whining and wailing, and a toned down version of Anthony Kiedis’ speaking/chanting/rhyming delivery. Not that this should surprise anyone – the same formulas produced two of the three songs that put Incubus on the map, “Stellar” and “Pardon Me” (the third, “Drive,” capitalized on the young rock audience’s affection for melodrama and turntables). One of Morning View’s most obvious problems stems from the mystifying inclusion and complete misuse of DJ Kilmore on the record. While I don’t support the fusion of hip-hop and rock music, two vastly different scenes with two vastly different cultures, I can appreciate it when done tastefully and intelligently (the understated presence of DJ Frank Delgado on the Deftones’ The White Pony springs to mind as an example). Incubus’s layered and lackluster compositions hang Kilmore out to dry, turning the addition of a turntablist from a welcome sonic divergence into just another feature to cram into a song. Given that already bleak premise, Kilmore’s influence overshadows Incubus’s subtler touches, like when a poor video game-sounding mix obscures a decent riff on “Nice To Know You” or when ill-advised scratching begins the breakdown on “Blood on the Ground.” Kilmore’s presence proves ponderous based solely on its own lack of merit, but it becomes even more ridiculous when considered in light of Boyd’s bold and proud statement that Morning View’s pseudo-metal construction contains “not a shred of rap.” I guess you can’t blame Incubus for trying, though; with a sound as derivative as theirs, any step toward “innovation,” no matter how misguided or trite, probably seems like a good idea. That comparison to Candlebox wasn’t just a clever joke – these guys really do sound like a throwback to mid-90’s modern rock, a time when long hair, shabby clothes and a complete indifference to tonality could make you a star (for further examples, see: Silverchair and Ugly Kid Joe). At times on Morning View, Incubus comes across like a watered down amalgam of Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden, co-opting their sounds but lacking their personality, fire or talent. Even when Incubus manages to step out of the gargantuan shadows of their predecessors, such as on the impressive (in comparison to the rest of the album) “Mexico,” they fail to establish an identity of their own, due largely to Boyd’s deficiency as a frontman. He fails to provide Incubus with a defining characteristic, thanks to his run-of-the-mill voice and his consistently underwhelming lyrics, like this gem from “Circles”: “Round and round we go / who could’ve known it’d end so well? / we fall on and we fall off … existential carousel.” Ding, ding, ding – we have a weiner. Morning View coughs up limp noodle after limp noodle until the album’s final track, which provides a glimmer of hope. The menacingly titled “Aqueous Transmission” (first thought in my mind: “With a title like that, this has to suck”) completely departs from Incubus’s stagnant sound in favor of Middle Eastern strings, violins, violas and a flute loop played over a (finally) well-conceived and understated mix by DJ Kilmore. The sonorous result actually brought a smile to my face…until Brandon Boyd started singing. As usual, he spews out more blank pages, penning forgettable lines like, “Floating down a river named ’emotion’ / will I make it back to shore? / or drift into the unknown?” Wow, dude. Sick. Leave it to empty-headed poetics to ruin an otherwise exceptional song. In the aforementioned bio, Brandon Boyd makes a statement to all those destined to behold the unfettered crapulence of Morning View. He hopes that many will like it, but is “aware that many will not, for stratospheric string orchestrations, Disney-esque, trip-hop escapades, lyrics about contentment under a full moon, and not a shred of rap…usually spells trouble for a rock band with aspirations of success.” He then makes a simple request of those less-than-enthusiastic about Incubus’s magnum opus: “And for those who don’t like [the album], you can bite me. Our record cover will look great even in the used CD bin.” While this brazen display of caustic wit has me thinking twice for fear of getting on the talented Mr. Boyd’s dark side, I think the used CD bin is exactly where my copy of Morning View is destined to end up. Call me a hater, call me a cynic, call me a jerk: just don’t call me a fan of this tepid pool of “rock” filth. Whether you’re looking for poetry, grooves, or fun, you should probably look elsewhere, because all Morning View proves is that weak rock is weak rock, regardless of release date.GRADE: D-

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