Ageless L.A. rockers rediscover their groove.

Incubus

Trust Fall – Side A

Following a three year hiatus which has spawned an array of solo projects and ever increasing speculation on their future as a band, Incubus have returned to doing what they do best; laying down bombastic riffs while lead singer Brandon Boyd provides esoteric lyrics and soaring vocals that give the recordings their signature flavour. Shunning the allure of an eighth studio album, the perennially youthful west coast outfit return instead with a brief but dextrously complex EP that sees them effortlessly roll back the years.

After the torturously convoluted creative process of 2011’s If Not Now, When?, this latest outing is clearly just the analeptic the band needed to blow out the cobwebs and get back to the business of making punchy, impactful rock music. Panned as “elevator music” by more than one critic and described by Boyd himself as “an intense low”, the band’s previous LP seemed to signal a group of musicians finally running on empty after almost two decades of consistent and varied output.

Despite being only four tracks long, the EP has been described by frontman Boyd as both “sonically involved” and “labyrinthine”. Not bad for 20 minutes of music.

Envisioned as one half of a complete piece of work due to be fully realised with the release of the counterpart ‘Side B’ later this year, being unburdened of their lucrative deal with Epic Records has obviously lightened the mood in the camp.

Title track Trust Fall is a brazen opening salvo, rattling along at such a ferocious pace it seems that the Los Angeles five piece are desperate to make up for lost time. A rollicking bass line augmented by synths propels the track between a classic Mike Einziger guitar hook and anthemic choruses before closing with a reflective spoken word refrain.

Lead single Absolution Calling is up there with the band’s best output in the past 10 years, combining the raw intensity of their previous vintage with the more accessible, pop influence of later years. With it’s catchy call and response chorus punctuated by a wailing guitar solo it again finds Boyd adopt an enigmatically sombre tone, wondering over and over again “Are you there, or not?”.

Elsewhere, the band just sound like they’re having a hell of a good time.

Make Out Party is anchored by a slow-rolling, meaty riff, a la Queens of the Stone Age, juxtaposed against Boyd’s soulful vocals, which oscillate into a falsetto register reminiscent of Josh Homme’s more expansive vocal work. The result is impactful, harking back to mid-90s grunge in it’s less apologetically melodic moments.

And if proof were needed that the band have regained some of their youthful swagger it is surely typified by the unrestrained Dance Like You’re Dumb, “Dance like you’re young, because you don’t need a reason”, a raucous old-school Incubus belter that sees Boyd throw in some delightfully cryptic wording, “Like a Pink Boba Fett she calls you on your bet”.

It tells tales of a debauched night out and the pitfalls of having too much fun with the wrong kind of girl, starting out with the wildly hedonistic before finishing with the painfully repentant. Capped off by some fuzzy synthesisers and gospel choir breakdown, it sounds like a band trying to cram as many musical styles into as little time as possible. With enjoyable consequences.

The music scene that spawned them may be long dead and buried, with many of their less fortunate contemporaries long since forced to find work as session musicians, but against increasingly mounting odds, L.A.’s post-grunge survivors keep on surviving.

Words: Henry Wickham

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