Sound — 9
Here I'm going to break the album up into 13 sections for each song as to cater to those who wish to download a few of the tracks and want some guidance. For reference - the members of Morning View-era Incubus: Brandon Boyd - Lead Vox, Chris Kilmore - DJ, Michael Einziger - Guitar/Vox, Alex Dirk Lance Katunich - Bass, Jose Antonio Pasillas II - Drums. 01. "Nice to Know You" - after a short intro, the listener is introduced to the same distorted guitar from Make Yourself which transforms into a soft, dreamy verse. Incubus' use of contrast between hard, riff-based rock and softer, more melodic rock makes for a contrast resulting in one hell of a song. The revolving nature of their songs becomes a theme of sorts throughout the album. 02. "Circles" - where "Nice to Know You" was a blend of musical styles, "Circles" is a kick in the ass. Incubus certainly didn't want to go soft. However, the bridge is a light, exotic intermission allowing the listener some breathing room before launching back into the bone-crunching Incubus from yesteryear. 03. Wish You Were Here - after a quick acoustic intro, the distorted guitars, bass and drums kick in before dropping down to an effects-ridden verse courtesy of Einziger and his effects pedals. The chorus in Wish You Were Here is up near the band's first mega-hit, Drive, being a memorable anthem and one of this albums best songs. 04. Just a Phase - opening with electronic noise and introducing strings and a killer, moody guitar riff splayed atop a Pink Floyd-ish chord progression, Just a Phase is a truly brilliant bit of work. Lead vocalist Boyd's voice carries overtop of the music and around the two minute mark the song changes into a simpler tune which results in the first verse. The moody nature of the song soon returns as the drums and guitar start growing louder and louder but the song reverts back to the second verse. Just a Phase is a drama played out through one band's efforts, where you wonder at the existence of the chorus and you anticipate and will undoubtedly enjoy listening to again and again. 05. 11am - exotic instrumentation and ghostly vocals haunt 11am, tethered together by the solid bass work of Alex Dirk Lance Katunich. The song does get slightly repetitive and is certainly not a personal favourite as it doesn't seem to stretch into new realms as one might expect from this Morning View-era Incubus. 06. Blood on the Ground - boyd's vocals are close to shouting as Einziger's demonic guitar tone rocks the intro to Blood on the Ground, setting the listener up for a new take on Incubus' hard rock formula. The rhythm section breaks into the intro, creating a ridiculously hardcore update of Rage Against the Machine's booming heavy metal. Pasillas bashes the cymbals sounding not unlike the bastard love child of John Bonham and Earl Hudson (wait.. is that even possible? ). The songs bridge is jazzy in bizarre respects as Boyd's singing takes on a new level of melody and the rhythm section settles into a groove all the while with Einziger playing arpeggios dripping with effects. 07. Mexico - welcome to the depressing side of Incubus! A mellow acoustic guitar accompanies Boyd as either musician displays why they're at the top of the proverbial heap. Some strings play alongside the chorus but admittedly this isn't the side of Incubus that many of theirs fans have fallen in love with. Any way you do look at it, however, it is a solid piece that helps to break up the electrified and warped sounds the band usually employs in it's music. 08. Warning - this is one of the album's best songs; the phaser is back and some strange chord shapes help to lay the foundation for a fantastic 'verse, chorus, verse' track. An embellished chorus (with the addition of a piano) the last time around helps to bring the song to a strong climax and a song many will probably want to listen to multiple times in a row. 09. Echo - a guitar riff featuring an East-Asian influence (supposedly with some help from guitar virtuouso/composer Steve Vai) opens Echo, a reverberating melodic ballad that helps to settle things down a little. Kilmores work is in full swing here, as is the energetic and underappreciated drumming of Pasillas. 10. Have You Ever - and back to the old Incubus. Boyd is sounding as angry as he did on Blood on the Ground as the rest of the band plays out a structured beat which stays cemented underneath the concise and distorted guitar playing by Einziger on the chorus. All in all, Have You Ever is yet another catchy and very listenable hard rock track from Incubus. 11. Are You In? - Incubus shows all it's got here: Kilmore is back with an array of samples, Katunich plays out a nigh-danceable line on the bass, and Einziger uses both effects and (relatively) clean guitar creating perhaps the most interesting song so far on the album. Boyd's vocal melody shines brightly and the harmonies create a sort of soft-funk ballad mixed with clear pop foundations. A truly satisfying song that could have 'worked' anywhere on the album. 12. Under My Umbrella - no, this isn't Rihanna. The four taps of the drum sticks at the beginning introduce one of Morning View's best songs. The best 'heavy' riff on the CD and grunge-style vocals (soft in the verse, loud in the chorus) create one of the greatest Incubus songs and a taste of just how they evolved from their S.C.I.E.N.C.E/Fungus Amongous days. The verse maintains Morning View's dreamy qualities, only with a sense of foreboding that turns into the super-heavy chorus. 13. Aqueous Transmission - what's this? The Chinese version of the lute, the Pipa is played here by the band's guitarist, alongside some more orchestral sounds, both familiar to a western audience and exotic, and the drum kit. Kilmore spins samples of frogs and other strange sounds as Boyd sings softly, which makes for a comforting end to a mostly optimistic, and sometimes troubled (in some aspects of sound) record.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrical nature of Incubus is intriguing. Boyd has the words of a romantic poet and the tongue of a talented rock singer. His lyrics often contain metaphors ("Floating in this cosmic Jacuzzi/We are like frogs oblivious/Soon the water starting to boil/Now I flinched and we all float face down", from "Warning") and his phrasing is clever enough to allow words that don't normally "work" to do just that. I've never listened to an Incubus song where it sounds as if the lyrics don't fit, this is probably a direct result of the songwriting process that the band often uses. In an interview, the band stated that Einziger will often play out a song (often the rough version) and Boyd will listen, and if he likes the song, he will write lyrics and a vocal melody for that song. This insures that each and every songs components are all befitting of the original idea and help to create a cohesive piece of music. Strong vocal work (both the harmonies and lead vocals) and lyrics that are often easy to relate to have become a staple of Incubus songs since "Morning View", which seemed to be the biggest step in the band's maturation from metal/funk to experimental/progressive and pop/rock.
Overall Impression — 10
"Morning View" is a beacon of variety, a light that shines on so many different influences, instruments, tones, and words that reflects what every album should aspire to emulate. As innovative as it is listenable, I recommend "Morning View" to anyone who has yet to hear Incubus or to anybody looking to find a modern rock band who has everything going for them. There is nothing not to like, possible issues of "too much variety" aside, everything on the album is done with a professionalism and vigour that exceeds any expectations of mediocrity one may have with Incubus and/or modern rock music.