Light Grenades: The Aftermath
It’s been awhile since I’ve written something here (almost 11 days from today, to be exact). Anyway, I think it’s high-time I wrote something. Sure, there’s a lot of things going on in the political world right now with new presidential candidates, this ‘non-binding’ resolution on the Iraq war, how Iran fits into this war on terror….the list truly goes on.
I think, however, I’ll take this entry in a bit of a different direction and revisit a post I made awhile back. Soon after Incubus dropped their new album Light Grenades, I posted a review, having reciently acquired the new album myself. Well, after a few months of listening, I feel like I should revisit some of the things I pointed out about this album.
One of the main things about this album is that it’s different, and not just different in that the songs and notes themselves are different (though this is true); the difference here is more of a subtle one. Firstly, this is Incubus’ first album with new bassist Ben Kenny. Much ado has been made of his arrival to the Incubus line up; indeed, many hardcore fans long for the funk-slap days of Dirk Lance. While being a hardcore Incubus fan myself (and bassist, and lover of all funk-slap grooves), I have to say that musically, Ben certainly holds his own with Brandon and the boys. While I won’t elaborate on (or further fuel) the debate about Ben Kenny’s presence, I will say that while Light Grenades is indeed a departure from the norm for Incubus, they do so with a style and maturity that’s both refreshing and entertaining.
One of the things I enjoy most in both life and music is variety. Usually, bands find their particular niche that they are comfortable playing in and rarely venture outside of that little box. There have, of course, been a few exceptions (the Dave Matthews Band is the prime example, along with John Mayer more recently). Usually, such ventures from the known and comfortable are met with widespread disapproval from fans and critics alike. While this record is no exception to that general rule, I think it certainly has the potential to be viewed as a positive turning point for Incubus.
Firstly, the five-some manage to conjure a sound that is mellow and mature, while still maintaining a strong connection with their rock roots. On the first listen, the album is a bit hodge-podgey. Quicksand is a light, airy, electronic opening that may leave the listener wondering when the “real’ song starts (at least that’s what I thought the first time I heard it). Kiss To Send us Off, along with Rogues, Ana Molly and the title track Light Grenades are the album’s tributes to the hardcore rock that previously defined Incubus’ sound. Pendulous Threads, Paper Shoes, Oil and Water, and Diamonds and Coal are all medium-tempo songs that neither qualify as hard rock or “the slow stuff”. They are, however, lyrically beautiful songs that are more than just power-chorded ear candy.
The wild card songs are Dig, Earth To Bella (parts 1 & 2), and Rogues. No, that’s not a typo, I have Rogues listed twice on purpose. I did so because while one can easily shelve this song in the ‘rock’ category, there’s something slightly…different about this song. The more I listen to it, the more I think I’m realizing it’s in the chord structure of the song (aka the way it sounds). I suppose it’s the realization that this song could’ve easily been another ‘Dig’. Sure, it’s written at that famous fast-as-light speed, but I can easily hear it as a slow, thoughtful peace. But again, that’s just me.
Along with Ben Kenny, some ado has been made about the tracks Earth To Bella (1&2). Most of what I read is along the lines of “why split them up, it’s the same song”. I happen to disagree with this. Sure, the melody, harmony, and chord structures are all the same, but I like the idea of having the two different ‘feels’ of the song in two different tracks. Part 1 is more…loud is the best way I can describe it. The drums and guitars are purposefully overdriven, producing this mind-crushing effect that is as loud as it as random. The end of the songs sees one of these loud sections bleeding away quickly to a single guitar fading out. Part 2 picks up with the same guitar line fading in. This time, however, the drums are barely there. There is a guitar solo, but it’s more in the background of the mix, rather than at the forefront. Layered over the solo are Brandon’s high, airy vocals. Again, this track serves as more of an outro (though it’s not labeled as such) than anything else.
This leaves us with Dig. I have to say, this song took me by complete surprise. Firstly, it’s between possibly the two most hard-driving tracks on the album. Dig is a slow-ish, piano and bass driven song. Mike’s guitar is relegated to strict backup work. Traditionally, songs such as Dig are found in the middle of the disk. Also, gone is the distinctive sound of DJ Killmore. In fact, DJ Killmore is almost transparent on the whole album. He does make an appearance on this track, having been reincarnated as the band’s pianist/keyboardist. Besides Earth To Bella: Part 2, it’s the slowest song on the disk, and is quite possibly the most beautiful song I’ve heard from this band.
This album may be seen by some (or most) Incubus fan as a disappointment. It’s not full of the funk-inspired bass lines of Dirk, and most of the songs fall into the ‘not-so-heavy’ category. However, one thing I have noticed upon listening to the various songs over and over is that this is not a ‘one-listen’ album. The music and lyrics have secrets that only repeated listening will reveal. The music and words grow on you. Some you love may fall out of favor only to be replaced by others you previously despised. In short, give it a chance. It really is something new and great from the boys of Incubus.