Sound — 7
Since releasing "If Not Now, When?" in 2011, the California quintet that is Incubus has found a new label, new management, and maybe even a new spark for creating music collectively. While no album Incubus has released sounds quite like the one before it, "Trust Fall (Side A)" is a significant leap from the lush, and warm tones that composed its predecessor. Providing fans with the slowest song the band have ever written while also offering caffeinated, "thrash-pop," side A of "Trust Fall" is a combination of the old and new. It sounds a bit like a practice in sonic juxtaposition, while being cemented in the familiar, tight grooves and melodies that listeners should have come to expect from Incubus during their twenty-four year-old career.
The EP (and subsequent full album) opens with the title track, "Trust Fall." "Trust Fall" is reminiscent of 2004's "A Crow Left of the Murder" featuring jangly Fender tones from guitarist Mike Einziger, while Ben Kenny pulls the track together with bass that walks the rope between beefy and punchy with incredible precision. "Trust Fall" tracks in at just over 6 minutes, as the group fleshes everything out until they sound satisfied. "Make Out Party" - the slowest Incubus track yet - comes in with a low, droning, Deftones-like guitar part, which is offset by Brandon Boyd's falsetto vocals. While arguably off-putting at first, after multiple listens it would be easy to believe that "Make Out Party" may actually be one of the most interesting Incubus tracks in the bands expansive discography. Sounding a little bit like it could have been recorded at multiple intervals of their career, pushing pop and alternative grunge influences turn the track into a work of bizarre ingenuity. "Absolution Calling," the first single released for the EP/album, boasts a modern Incubus sound. Key samples from DJ/keyboardist Chris Kilmore, and the chorus-infused bass take inspiration from the '80s, while José Pasillas' slightly offbeat drum groove and Einziger's overdriven guitar patterns could be taken from a variety of Incubus tracks over the last 10 years. The poppy vocal pattern and general driving rhythm of the track make it an appropriate single, and re-introduction to the group after years of absence. "Dance Like You're Dumb," a "trash-pop" number that the band describes as "highly caffeinated," is the last track on the "Trust Fall (Side A)." Playing with distorted bass, hard rock guitar riffage, and thick keyboards, "Dance Like You're Dumb" is tied together by a bridge that hosts gospel-influenced female backup vocals that almost call back to The Rolling Stones.
Lyrics — 7
Boyd's vocal and lyrical abilities have been subject to praise for over a decade, and not much of that should change after the release of "Trust Fall (Side A)." His voice soars over the tracks with unique precision and cadence, making it one of the defining factors in Incubus' sound. The lyrics on "Side A" move between highly metaphorical and abstract, to up-front and blunt. "Make Out Party" is a highly sexual number, with Boyd's falsetto sounding reminiscent of styling that could be found on a Justin Timberlake album. "Let me introduce you to my slippery fingers, glistening and dangerous, I'll use them all in ways that would make you giggle at my funeral," Boyd sings, playfully, against the backdrop of deep and disgruntled guitars. "Absolution Calling," on the other hand, leaves itself more open to interpretation while centering itself around the concept of absolution, or even the theme of forgiveness as a whole.
Overall Impression — 7
"Trust Fall (Side A)" is a collection of songs that, while experimental, playful, and different, all manage to feel appropriately Incubus. Before the album was announced Boyd told Fuse that he believed there was "still a lot of p-ss and vinegar in [Incubus] collectively." And although "Side A" does not necessarily sound like a group that is full of said p-ss and vinegar, it does sound like a group of musicians with a rejuvenated spark for their craft. 2011's "If Not Now, When?" could have marked the sonic end of Incubus' edge, but "Trust Fall (Side A)" shows fans that they still have plenty to offer. Chances are the EP will not be bringing in waves of new fans, but it will be solidifying the places of old ones, and reminding general audiences that, over 20-years later, Incubus is still one of the most interesting bands of their generation.