Whether it’s rehashed hard rock or a non-enterprising rap-metal hybrid, there isn’t much to differentiate between most rock bands these days. Incubus, however, sets themselves apart with their second full-length release Make Yourself. A superb blend of metal guitar riffs, classic punk-rock mentality, and subtle hip-hop and electronic elements, Incubus doesn’t just imitate these genres, but rather, redefines them in an otherwise non-revolutionary rock landscape.
Lead singer Brandon Boyd’s vocals have a timeless quality, but his lyrics take a backseat to the rhythmic bass, tight percussion and vocal effects of tracks like “Stellar” and “Nowhere Fast.” The latter displays flawless mood-shifts that will no doubt become one of the band’s trademarks. Unlike Limp Bizkit or Korn, Incubus’s fine-tuned application of hip-hop and metal isn’t gratuitous or abrasive. The effect is streamlined on tracks like “Privilege,” where underlying hip-hop beats and scratching never permeate the band’s instrumentation.
But that’s not to say Boyd’s concepts have no significance or depth of their own. There is a simple theme of control strung throughout the album and it’s even reflected in the title and its accompanying track “Make Yourself.” The song takes a mature look at responsibility and self-actualization: “You should make amends with you/If only for better health.” Boyd also takes responsibility for his mistakes and wears his scars proudly: “If you let them fuck you/There will be no foreplay…And if I fuck me/I’ll fuck me in my own way.” He defines himself as his own creator, and thusly, the world around him.
The melodic “Drive” tackles issues of fear with refreshing insight: “It seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal.” Easily the most radio-friendly track on the album, the song blends live percussion and turntable beats with amazing style. Boyd’s rap-influenced vocals on “Consequence” and “Pardon Me” make lines like “Consequence you’ll see will be stranger that a gang of drunken mimes” acceptable, and, once again, the glory is in the rhythm. To make matters even more eclectic, the disc features the instrumental bass-heavy funk of “Battlestar Scralatchica” and the measured pop of “I Miss You,” a sweet long-distance love letter (“To know that you feel the same as I do/Is a three-fold, utopian dream”).
The Incubus website solicits that its visitors “defy perception,” and with the help of producer Scott Litt (R.E.M., Nirvana), the band manages to successfully blur the perceptions between metal and alt-rock. The final track on Make Yourself, “Out From Under,” demands that we “resist, unlearn, defy!” while it dares to combine the mindset of punk with electronic bleeps and turntable scratches. The album brims with a revolutionary undercurrent, and like Boyd says: “Blink and you miss a beat.”