Being different can sometimes work to your benefit. In music, critics and fans generally want to label every band as falling into a particular genre. That practice can be beneficial to both the fan and the artist because it can expose you to an act just because of where they fall on the musical spectrum. But as you could guess, sometimes bands get mislabeled or the label simply doesn’t do them justice. That would be the case with today’s band, which everyone will call alternative or alternative rock – but they’re so much more.
Incubus is a California based band who started making music in the early 90s. There isn’t a real fun story of how this group came to be—just a few guys that went to high school together and formed a band. Even the name, which is fairly unique, doesn’t have an interesting history. It was a forced title when they were required to provide a name for a local show in the early days.
The band put together a self-produced album which was picked up by a smaller label, which was then subsequently bought by Epic Records. The big label liked their sound, and the touring and promotions began.
Looking at their third studio release today, Make Yourself was released in October of 1999. This would be slated to be their first album with real support though, and the numbers showed. They sold roughly 100,000 albums prior, but this album has sold nearly four million copies on its own. The single ‘Pardon Me’ was featured in various media, and it really helped get this album, and the band, some major publicity. The music video revolution was starting to return, with Carson Daly’s wildly popular TRL program on MTV. ‘Pardon Me’ was a signature video on that show for an entire summer, generating fans spanning multiple generations.
When you listen to this, it’s really all over the board. The older Incubus albums were very guitar heavy, even with a little rapping over the top. There are still elements of both on this album, but that sound isn’t exclusive. You’d classify it as alt rock because of those two elements, but you also get a little funk beat here, and it’s even a little reggae in spots. A couple tracks give you an acoustic element, and it’s clear there was a desire to highlight Brandon Boyd’s very strong vocal abilities, which I’d argue truly makes the album great.
One of the biggest highlights of Incubus’s music are the lyrics. When you really kick your feet up and listen to the words, you might wonder what the heck they’re talking about—or more pointedly, what they were doing while writing them. This album may not be as ‘out there’ as subsequent records, but it’s still got this spacey feeling to it, which is really cool. I think, if an album could be written by aliens, and they could have their own sound – that’s almost what Incubus seems to shoot for. Something totally unique, and out of this world, so to speak.
If you’re looking for 90s rock that isn’t all grunge, this is your band—and it’s something you probably have never experienced before. Five bucks buys you one chai tea latte with no water and soy heated to 185, or it can introduce you to a new band. I’ll leave it up to you.
Top 3 Tracks: