“Light Grenades,” the sixth album by perennial alternative rock band Incubus, exploded onto charts after its release in late November. However, the precipitous plunge of “Grenades,” falling from No. 1 to 37 in a week, left many critics wondering exactly what went wrong with Incubus’ latest release.
This decline, the farthest they’ve ever been from the top of the charts, is uncharacteristic for Incubus. The band’s wide fan base, formed by years of arena tours and solid if not stellar albums, has provided staying power in the past.
Much like the group’s previous work, “Light Grenades” is rife with innovative guitar hooks and lead singer Brandon Boyd’s ethereal and imaginative lyrics.
This style, though seemingly prone to create varied sounds, has, in this album, imbued the tracks with a certain signature sound that makes them uniquely identifiable with Incubus.
The latest album is markedly less politically charged than the preceding “A Crow Left Of The Murder…,” whose tracks, including “Megalomaniac” and “Talk Shows on Mute,” were direct assaults upon the status quo. This departure from the political scene may seem radical for a group who, three years ago, was widely known for its criticism of the Bush Administration.
When examined through the lens of the entire Incubus stable of art, however, it is clearly a return to a philosophical center for the band. Guitarist Mike Einziger has been quoted as saying, “It sounds like 13 different bands playing 13 different songs…” Still, he also concedes that in tracks such as “Dig,” which was evidently too far a variance, “We ended up making it slightly more rock because it got to a point where I thought it didn’t sound like us at all.”
Those 13 tracks, especially the highly played singles “Anna Molly” and “Dig,” could conceivably be part of almost any of the previous albums created by the group. Therefore, speculation that the album is not as successful as some forecasted, due to its radical divergence, seems a stretch of the truth. Rather, it seems that what has worked in the past, what once constituted an ultimate album, no longer meets the standards demanded.
For those who already love Incubus, this album is a perfect fit. “Light Grenades” delivers as promised, pulsing plentifully with all that fans enjoy about the distinct Incubus sound. “Grenades,” reminiscent of the “Morning View” era, combines introspective and highly original lyrics with a constantly amazing yet somehow typical alternative guitar. These attributes are supported by a moderately impressive and always appropriate rhythm section.
Based upon first listens and popular singles, however, “Grenades” does little to persuade new listeners into becoming diehard adherents or appreciating the relative depth of the album.
To the casual listener, this sixth album merely reverberates across the airwaves as a typical alternative rock album that does not do enough to distinguish itself from similar past attempts and the multitude of current compilations that sound startlingly alike.
This statement, of course, comes with the disclaimer that “Light Grenades” is only unimpressive because of the perhaps too-high standards that bands of consistent quality, such as Incubus, are held to.
Ultimately, this is an album that should not be missed, but is not the group’s best creation.
Burnett is a member of the class of 2010.