|Incubus - A Crow Left of the Murder|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Tuesday, 03 February 2004|
Incubus shines through the doldrums of so much of today’s alternative rock with their odd-time signature riffs, spacey DJ scratches and singer Brandon Boyd’s powerful pipes. I’m always excited about a new incubus album and when I began hearing the first single “Megalomaniac” on the radio I couldn’t believe how much the middle section of it sounded like a late-80’s Rush song. I thought to myself, “I really like Rush and Incubus is one of my favorite new bands in the last 5 years, so this album should be great.”
Popping A Crow Left of the Murder into the CD player I was pleasantly surprised to find a diverse and well crafted rock album from this quintet from the small town of Calabasas, California. Musicianship has been out of vogue in music over the past few years and Incubus is one of the bands that seem to focus more of making music that pushes the envelope musically. With each release, Incubus seems to be evolving into a progressive rock band rather than following the direction of other alterative rock bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit. Sure Incubus has a DJ that makes scratching sounds during songs, but don’t let you think that they are just another wanna-be rap rock band.
The closest thing I can compare Incubus’ sound to is Faith No More. Both bands have catchy, hard rocking songs that aren’t afraid to go places to strange rhythmically and melodically. Singer Brandon Boyd has an almost operatic delivery with lush vocal harmonies. On the song ‘Here in my Room” the similarities to Faith No More are scary as the piano part, vocal melody and the arrangement could fool you into thinking Mike Patton and the gang got back together to record a new album. Other songs such as the frantic jam “Priceless” and the swinging rock tune “Zee Deveel“ had me remembering back to the days when Faith No More was cranking out some of the best, non-commercial rock music around.
Unlike Faith No More, Incubus’ songs tend to be a little lighter lyrically and this album doesn’t sport the explicit lyrics label. There is big radio and MTV potential on A Crow Left of the Murder but the choice of the first single “Megalomania” with it’s herky jerky syncopation and 70’s classic rock sound was a bold decision by the band and their label Epic/Immortal records. It’s a gable that has paid off and now you hear the song in major rotation around the FM dial and has even made its way into commercial bumpers for radio shows like the Syndicated “Loveline.”
The title track “A Crow Left of the Murder” has a driving baseline and a big hook in the chorus that is the musical glue that ties the song together. I don’t know what the album’s title refers to and with Boyd’s stream of consciousness lyrics that aren’t completely written out in the CD booklet leave you guessing. During the song bridge section the heavy, distorted guitar lines fade into a clean tone while the drums and DJ build a spaced out vibe. All of the instruments except for the guitar and Boyd’s voice then drop out until during the final outro the whole band comes back to rock it till the end. This is a classic Incubus arrangement that is used well in many more songs on the album.
The unsung hero of Incubus who covers so much ground is guitarist Michael Einziger. From his clean tone guitar lines on the almost do-wop sounding song “Talk Show on Mute” to the complex rhythm on the album’s piece-de resistance “Sick Sad Little World.” Even the best guitarists will have to do some practicing to get all of the rhythms and parts of this songs learned on their axes.
Produced by and mixed by Brendon O’Brien, most famous for his work with Rage Against the Machine and Pearl Jam, A Crow Left of the Murder is a fairly ambitious record with a lot of parts and rhythm issue that were surely fine tuned with many takes in the studio. The result is an album that sounds slightly mechanical but very live at the same time. The tonality of the instruments and the vocals are virtually the same as previous few Incubus albums but that is not a negative in my opinion. They have found sounds that they like to use and that is the Incubus sound.
You have probably read many article on AudioRevoluion.com talking about the woes of the music industry. Lack of good musicianship has been offered up as one of the reasons that music sales have been down but Incubus bucks the trend of no drum fills and no guitar solos that so many other rock bands have seemingly adopted.