Album Review: If Not Now, When?

 If Not Now, When? (2011)If_not_now_when_album_cover

Album Rating: 2/5
Album Length: Too Long
Album Feel: No

Incubus’s album If Not Now, When? doesn’t give fans any recognizable sounds or styles to fall back on, and is more like a solo album from lead singer Brandon Boyd than the full band’s effort.  The vocals are clearly the forefront of the tracks, with overused vibrato and falsetto harmonies in some sections.  The supporting instruments are acoustic guitars along with orchestral percussion, strings and piano during the songs’ extended bridges.  There is the occasional distorted guitar during a chorus or as a backing effect, but there are few memorable lead guitar riffs, just straight chord progressions throughout.  The disc scratches and electronic computer effects are missing, along with any funky bass lines or rapping.  They’re all absent in the band’s quest to make a more “artistic” style of music.

Each song is very different from what Incubus normally releases.  Mosh tracks like “Pardon Me” or “Nice To Know You” that you can bang your head to are not represented here.  Instead, you get multiple tracks that sound very repetitive, slow and laid back with acoustic guitar and soft basic drum patterns that more often than not just miss the mark, and after three songs get dull.  There are a few choice spots where the new stuff works.  The piano solo on the lead single “Adolescents” sounds like an early 20th century impressionist piece, and is enjoyable and different.  The violins and bass on the album’s title track help the song gain movement as it builds to its final chorus.  But most other times, the new style lacks any real substance and instead the songs become either too simple or too over the top, featuring out of place instrumentation.  The bridge found on “The Original” features lazy power chords, blasted over a gentle piano and whispers of lyrics.  The almost eight minute “In the Company of Wolves” starts with a Pink Floyd-ish intro with organ and singing.  Once you get slightly used to it the bazar sounds, the song completely changes, and becomes a strange piano solo accompanied with soft distorted guitar hums.  Then the instruments start their 3-minute crescendo while a loud violin section and overwhelming vocal moans are thrown on top, until it all build together into a chaotic cacophony of noise, which abruptly ends.

Isadora is the best track on If Not Now, When? and is the song that strays from the “classical” approach the most.  No strings or long extended bridged, just guitar, percusion and vocals.    Even though the lyrics aren’t fully there, the music holds its own.  When combined with the bongos, sleigh bells and drum kit, the acoustic guitar creates an interesting rhythmic pattern that captured the listener’s attention, while the vocal melody seems to fit in more naturally with the sounds than in the other tracks.  The harmonies in the chorus add more textures that are “rock” oriented.  The electric guitar riff in the solo and outro is memorable enough to stick and different from any others on the album.  The song still doesn’t sound like any older incubus songs, but it works.

The closing track “Tomorrow’s Food” summarizes the album.  The predictable lyrics are sung dramatically and sound a bit out of tune.  Background hums and multiple vocal harmonies fill out the verses and choruses, and cover up the repetitive but soothing acoustic guitar riff. However, the song’s 2 minute outro is the most musical section of the album, mixing short guitar flurries and electronic sound effects with a swelling violins and a full backing string section, making it beautiful and haunting, giving us a short glimpse of what If Not Now, When?’s new style truly could have achieved, had it not fallen short.

  • Key Tracks: “Isadore”, “Adolescents”, “Tomorrows Food”
  • Worst Tracks: “In the Company of Wolves”, “Switch Blade”, “Thieves”, “The Original”

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