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The elements collide so well for Incubus

November 21, 2006|Steve Appleford | Special to The Times


"Light Grenades" (Epic)

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Incubus was maybe the only band to bridge the infinite gap between nu-metal angst and the hippie dream, seeking enlightenment through funky grooves, big beats and jackhammer riffs. In truth, the rock results were always less Limp Bizkit than Pearl Jam, with enough radio hits and good looks in the form of singer Brandon Boyd to earn the nickname 'NSyncubus.

It's a good joke, but it obscures the genuine rock ambitions of this quintet out of Calabasas.

Incubus is essentially a cosmic jam band with a weakness for big guitars that erupt in sudden melodic flourishes, often resorting to that loud-soft-loud formula that worked so well for Nirvana and the Pixies. In the past, all those colliding elements didn't always coalesce into memorable hooks, but the new "Light Grenades" (in stores Nov. 28) refines the band's attack modes: melodic and muscular, gentle and intense.

The title song even fires up some classic punk-rock riffing. Not that Incubus has actually stripped things down, but its sixth studio album offers more consistent melodic rewards. And even amid the band's busy arrangements an emotional clarity rips through Boyd's vocals on "Oil and Water" or the thick funk attack of "Rogues."

This is not a dramatic shift for Incubus. And these five musicians have grown accustomed to their music landing on the charts, but it has happened with few pop compromises, riding their jarring, complex arrangements to the airwaves or not at all.


Albums are reviewed on a scale of four stars (excellent), three stars (good), two stars (fair) and one star (poor). Albums reviewed have been released except as indicated.

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