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Monday, March 10, 2008

Incubus: "Morning View"

It's Monday, and according to logic - and the weekly schedule here at Audio Overflow - this "Retro Review" for Incubus' 2001 album, Morning View should have been posted yesterday. So when Erin, who usually writes these reviews, "called in sick" yesterday, I hurriedly sat down and typed out what will go probably go down as the single greatest thing that has ever been written. It was more poetic than Maya Angelou, more profound than Moby Dick, and more insightful than Plato. But that's just me being meek. Unfortunately for you and the present and future of humankind, some freak accident caused the entire thing to be deleted just as I started typing in the key tracks. The greatest review ever forged was lost in the annals of history.

The original introduction to my review had significantly more to do with the album. It read a little more like this:

One could effectively make a case either for or against Incubus. I know this because I'm currently torn over them. Back in High School, they were my favorite band. Since their 2004 album, A Crow Left of the Murder, I've steadily grown out of love with them. Brandon Boyd is truly unparalleled as a rock vocalist, though as a lyricist he's sometimes laughably flawed. Likewise, Mike Einziger often wavers between guitar god and spirited amateur. Incubus has their moments on every album where they simply blow you away, and for that, they deserved to be listened to. It is Morning View, however, that remains their most impressive LP to date! It varies between loud, distorted, rock jams and introspective ballads, but does so effortlessly and sometimes unnoticably.

Morning View's cover depicts a picturesque California coast; a peaceful, secluded patch of beach. The brilliant thing about the album is that every song, regardless of style, feels like if would be a perfect accompaniment to such a place. The album's first single, "Wish You Were Here" makes you want to close your eyes and picture yourself on that distant coast; the wind ripping through your hair, and your arms outstretched in a "With Arms Wide Open" music video type of way. If you could put music on a postcard with the phrase "Wish You Were Here," this would be it! Boyd's lyrics beautifully capture this moment as well, singing, "I lean against the wind, pretend that I am weightless, and in this moment I am happy."

But Morning View is not all pretty, happy moments. Songs like "Mexico," or the beautiful, "11am" drip with regret and remorse. Boyd softly sings, "7am. The garbage truck beeps as it backs up and I start my day thinking about what I've thrown away," and you can immediately empathize with him. Both songs have a very somber, slow tone to them and brilliantly counter the intensity of the album's opening moments. Others such as "Blood on the Ground" or "Under My Umbrella" feature a defiant sound, more in line with the band's earlier funk-punk influenced albums.

But more often than not, the tone of Morning View is one that is rather complacent. "Are You In?" is such a blissful, jazzy song that it's hard not to fall in love with it. Brandon Boyd sings in a carefree falsetto throughout a large portion of the song, noting that "It's so much better when sea foam green is in fashion," which is dumb, yes, but also strangely satisfying. "Just a Phase" features similar lyrical blunders but finds the band experimenting with different sounds and using silence to effectively heighten a moment of increased volume in a way that I've yet to hear done quite so convincingly. And then there's always the zen-like experience that is listening to "Aqueous Transmission," the album's peaceful closer. At over 7 minutes long, it takes the listener on a journey. Again, Boyd paints a beautiful picture that is brilliantly conveyed with the music. He sings, "I'm floating down a river...Lying face up on the floor of my vessel, I marvel at the stars and feel my heart overflow." Sounds of crickets, frogs, and other noisy creatures add ambiance to an already surreal track. Such a song could only appear on this album, and Incubus has never really made a song that rivals this one.

It has been over 6 years since Morning View first released. A lot has changed since then. Music has come and gone, and my tastes have changed significantly. The constant throughout all of that has been this one album. I can listen to it today just as I did 6 years ago; blaring through my speakers, me singing at the top of my lungs, air drumming, guitaring, etc. It is my go-to album for karaoke, a mainstream rock must-own, and by far Incubus' most solid and impressive peace of work. If you've yet to hear Morning View (who are you?), or would like to get reacquainted with it, I highly recommend giving it a listen. It has not disappointed me yet after (literally) hundreds of listens. Have fun with it!

Key Tracks:
1. "Circles"
2. "Just a Phase"
3. "11am"
4. "Under My Umbrella"
5. "Aqueous Transmission"

9 out of 10 Stars


JD said...

Dude, when I did the whole break all of you secular cd's thing this was the first album that I bought back. I totally agree, it is the only album I have from my highschool early college days that I still listen to.

Megan P.I. said...

Morning View is a spectacular album. My friends and I drove to Malibu on rainy night looking for the Morning View house. That was awesome.

I haven't listened to them too much recently, but this album reminds me of running around when I was 19 or 20 before my friends got too serious.