Release Date: 04/21/17
While Trust Fall (Side A) hinted at a return to form, Incubus’ 8 is quite a disappointment, made worse by sub-par audio engineering and production provided by, inexplicably, none other than Skrillex.
While this is the first majorly disappointing Incubus release in a long career, there are still some decent songs on this release. In fact, it starts out with the relatively rocking and catchy “No Fun”, one of the albums highlights. One thing that immediately jumps out though, is the drum sound. The bass drum is so overcompressed it sounds like the kind of programmed drums you’d expect to hear in EDM. Choosing to have Skrillex as producer is one thing, he’s talented, and deserves a chance and to be listened to with an open mind, but this production style just does not match. The choice is also a bit out of touch – an aging band choosing an already-mostly-irrelevant EDM producer… eesh. In fact, he remixed the album shortly before release! Why-oh-why? On the positive side, the track opens with one of the most Make Yourself-esque moments the band has had since that very same album.
The next track is another highlight. “Nimble Bastard” may be among Incubus’ most catchy tracks ever. The chorus is incredibly, incredibly catchy. Still, I find the drums highly distracting. If you can overlook the recording, you may find yourself really enjoying this song (and album).
“State of the Art” isn’t a bad song by any means, but I do think Skrillex’s presence is perhaps too greatly felt here, sounding a little too “2013 Pop Radio” for my tastes. It’s interesting the production is credited to Skrillex and not Sonny Moore, because Sonny Moore was in a rock band, and the production here sounds like this dude’s never been a part of a rock band.
“Glitterbomb” features Incubus’ loudest moments since 2006’s Light Grenades, though I do think they oversold the heaviness contained on this album prior to release. I believe guitarist Mike Einziger said this album would feature some of their heaviest moments since S.C.I.E.N.C.E.. Granted, this could’ve packed more of a punch with more appropriate production choices.
Throughout the album one has to wonder: “what happened to Boyd’s lyrics?” Read the lyrics on Morning View or A Crow Left of the Murder, even S.C.I.E.N.C.E. and contrast them with those on this album… quite the decline. Overall, not terrible or too distracting, just another element of disappointment.
Ultimately from a career perspective, there’s little in the way of progress – it’s the same band writing familiar songs, some that are above the bands average and some that fall a bit below, all with a horrendous sounding recording that is impossible to overlook. Songs like “Loneliest” almost don’t even sound like Incubus given the production. Mediocre songwriting combined with a crap recording makes for some highly off-putting moments.
The experimental, and silly, “How I Became A Man” is ruined by its production choices. You’d swear Skrillex has had no experience with unusual or challenging sounds. I suppose when subtlety is to be involved, rather than obnoxiousness, he’s unable to rise to the challenge.
The story is much the same for the remainder of the album: A mixed bag of tracks sabotaged by the production choices and the recording itself. Production choices wouldn’t save songs like “Love In A Time of Surveillance”, however. “Make No Sound in the Digital Forest” feels unnecessary as well. Though there is at least the album-closer and album highlight “Throw Out the Map”, which sounds like it would’ve comfortably fit on the proposed Trust Fall (Side B).
I’d love to hear this thing remixed in more capable hands because I could see this album providing far more value presented in a different manner. What I really want is the bands original proposed idea of a Trust Fall (Side B). As part one provided for the level of excellence I’ve come to expect from Incubus and this, quite clearly, did not.
Highlights: “No Fun”, “Nimble Bastard”, “Throw Out the Map”