Time catches up with all of us, even mutli-platinum rock stars like Incubus. Brandon Boyd and the boys are well aware that they have hit their mid-30s. Whether they meant to or not, their new album If Not Now, When? conveys that times are changing.
Fans have been waiting for a new Incubus release since 2006’s Light Grenades, but is this the emotionally-charged tour-de-force they were listening for? If Not Now, When? could be labeled soft rock, fare for an older, introspective crowd. Boyd weaves sophisticated, poetic lyrics over calm tracks. Even the radio single “Adolescents” seems retrospective, despite its return to more energized days.
As always, Boyd’s voice packs a wallop, but it seems to overwhelm several of the tracks, including the title. The music and vocals don’t seem to meld as on the band’s prior albums. Throughout the tracks, there’s an ‘80s snare beat that sounds like a calmer version of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” The band tries to spice it up with some offbeat pentatonic scales, but it still seems thrown together. Just when the sound has built up to a chorus or a breakdown, it quickly recedes and drains the energy.
Somewhere in the last five years, Incubus came to a divide. The song “Defiance,” which speaks of rebellion, misses the target on overall feeling by adding smooth acoustic guitar and calling “defiance, an elegant operation.” Some members may be stuck in the days of youth, or are just courting radio hit singles. Others are moving toward more intellectual territory, despite the loss of the wow factor.
This is a transitional album for a band trying to figure out where their lives and music are headed. The final track on the album, “Tomorrow’s Food,” really spells it out: “We are tomorrow’s food today.” Incubus is feeling the pinch of age and asking themselves “If not now, when?”