Saturday, September 5, 2009

Incubus - Make Yourself

Incubus - Make Yourself
Published in 1999
First, a thank you to Peter for suggesting this album.

Second, an explanation.

I've been trying to figure out something creative to do with my time, especially on weekends. While my life is in no way interesting enough to keep a running log of (hats off to Cole and Kristin), one thing that is constantly in my life is Music. I love listening to music. I know that is no real revelation, who doesn't love listening to music. But I figure combining writing with listening to music can never be bad.

So, this is the project. Every couple of days, on a whenever I get it done kind of basis, and more on the weekends, I'm going to listen to one of my friends favorite albums. I want to hear a whole music composition by one band, that will either make me reexamine what I like, or add something new to the mix. The theory is that this will sharpen my listening while sharpening my writing. I hope to have some people read this constantly, or just check it out when their album comes up.

This is not intended to be a review, or particularly objective. I hope that I'll constantly be writing new things inspired by the music, and so the essays will vary from really short to really long, track by track or just an overview of the album. I'd love to have feedback on what I'm doing, and if you have anything to say, comments are open for everyone.

So, on to the essay.

I love this album.

I loved it when I was 13 and hanging out with Zach and Peter, my two best friends from middle school. I loved it through high school and college, and I love it now. Listening to it again, all those memories came rushing back.

Incubus is one of those bands that has never done me wrong. I will submit that they have weaker albums and stronger albums, and that their music can sometimes be overwhelmed by the quirk that they decide to put in every track, but if I were to try to convert someone into an Incubus fan, I would strap them in, and make them listen to this album, from front to back.

I'm incredibly glad that Peter was the first one to respond, because I knew that this would be the first essay that I would want to write. I wanted to approach something that I knew very well, but try to open myself to it in a new way. I've listened to the whole record three times today, and I'm actually changing my opinion about it. It is not just one great album, it's a strange kind of mix of two great albums.

One album is a post apocalyptic rock album about the control and destruction of freethinking society, an Orwellian hell in which people are forced into lines and apathy reigns. The other is an album of love songs, written within the context of a storm around them. It feels strange to divide them, in this way, because the album is perhaps at it's best when the two are colliding. For example, to take two songs that are back to back on the album, Drive and Clean are strangely juxtaposed in the album. Drive is a song all about the taking of the reigns for ones self, and wondering about the ability to determine one's own actions. It is a quiet song. It's not loud, it's not even that Incubus-like. Brandon Boyd's voice penetrates it, but it doesn't need much more than the guitar and it sounds almost like a love song to me. Clean, is a loud, overpowering love song. It is about the misunderstanding between two people in love, and how they are thrust against each other in the strangest ways. This song is Incubus at it's most acid rock jazz funk rocky. They put so much into the song at this point, it's got tons of sound, and it is all about trying to find understanding in another.

I think the 13 year old me would hate me for saying this, but I think Battlestar Scralatchtica is actually the weakest track on the album now. Weirdly, it calls back in the middle of this soundscape described above to the albums that they did before, SCIENCE and Fungus Amongus, and I just don't think it fits in this album. I like the song, and I think it would have been a great addition to SCIENCE, but it just doesn't work for me here.

If you can find it, you should give this album a shot. It's one of those records that can make you like a band that you hadn't considered that good before. It also lets you know that the singles and bullshit that a band puts out isn't always their best material. In context Pardon Me and Drive get better, and the first three songs of the album are maybe the most in sync Incubus gets.

Hope you enjoyed it, and I'll be back later.
Different Bat-time, same Bat-channel,


  1. Oh yeah, and up next:

    Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde

  2. Listened to this album over and over thru the UK before high school; def a soundtrack to a huge part of my life.

  3. I'll always love this album. And I'm putting your blog on my Google Reader. Awesome dude.


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