Title: Light Grenades
Genre: mathy alt-rock with just a soupçon of hardcore punk
Incubus reminds me of Radiohead in everything but how the music actually sounds. They're nerdy in a very musician way, artful without being artsy, edgy without being completely cynical, and their songwriting is just strange enough to make you wonder how they ever made it into the mainstream in the first place. Arrangements are complex, built around unorthodox chord voicings and time signatures. Their lyrics aren't about your usual rock staples of sex and drugs (or angst, or self-destruction, or being abused by your parents--this album came out in the 00's after all) but are more introspective, metaphorical, and overall possessing of that whiff of a B.A. in Literature. In fact, most of the time when Incubus songs don't work for me, it's because they lean too hard on the intellectualism and fail to distill a song down to its emotional core.
Light Grenades manages to walk that line, delivering complex, brainy music that also has solid hooks and a ton of heart. There's a tendency with this band to try and fill a song up with lyrics, but here singer Brandon Boyd is willing to give the important moments a little space. I particularly love Oil And Water which has sparsely-lyricked verses. Here's all of the lyrics from the first forty seconds of a less-than-four-minute song: "You and I are like oil and water, and we've been trying, trying, trying to mix it up." It's a simple, clever, and resonant in a song about a relationship that just isn't working no matter what they do. And it flows nicely into the next song Diamonds And Coal which is about a rough relationship that could work out if they'd just "give us time to shine." The big single was Anna Molly which is a great radio tune, but my favorite from the album is Dig, which is just one of the great rock love songs. Paper Shoes is another favorite. It doesn't completely work, but I find it endearing. Hell, even the weaker tracks on this album, Pendulus Threads and Light Grenades--the ones that harken back the most to Incubus's early days as a hardcore punk band--are at least fun and quick. But they're also the exception. While it frequently rocks out, the album is altogether thoughtful and emotional, willing to be mellow, and able to find the simple meaning behind the complexity.
Further Listening: A Crow Left Of The Murder is nice and angsty, and Make Yourself has their most enduring hits, but--alas--nothing out of the Incubus catalog holds up quite as well as Light Grenades does.