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If you read the reviews here, it will probably be very confusing to figure out what to expect when listening to this album.
Essentially, the reviews here are mostly a matter of either "OMG it's amazing, just open your mind and you'll see how great it is!" or "OMG it's terrible, what happened to the Incubus I used to love?".
The album really fits neither of those descriptions, instead lying somewhere between being an unmitigated masterpiece and an epic failure - it is not close to either of those extremes.
Every Incubus needs to be viewed in the context of the evolution of the band. Clearly, this is not the band that produced SCIENCE, and even Make Yourself seems pretty distant at this point. I have fond memories of listening to the funky metal of SCIENCE in my college days, but that unique style of music is something that Incubus left behind long ago, and you can't realistically hope they're going to do anything like that ever again.
This new album, If Not Now, When? (INNW), seems to complete the transition from the funky metal to the laid-back melodic band that we caught glimpses in songs like Drive, Stellar, and Mexico, and started to see coming into full force on songs like Dig and Love Hurts.
Ultimately, however, no matter what kind of an evolution a band is going through, the only thing that really matters to me is, do I like the songs? Do I want to listen to them on a regular basis? SCIENCE and Make Yourself were truly masterpieces - every song was good, and about half of the songs on Morning View were on that level of greatness. ACLOTM and Light Grenades were low points for the band, IMO, as only about 3 songs on each of those albums were worthwhile.
INNW falls into the middle of the spectrum, just like Morning View. About half of the songs are good or great - good enough that they'll stay on my iPod anyway. The other half are not good enough, and unless they really grow on me over the next few weeks of listening, I'll probably delete them from my iPod.
THE GOOD SONGS:
If Not Now, When? (good but not great, and kinda sounds like U2, a band I despise, but nonetheless an iPod-worthy song)
Promises, Promises (a favorite of mine)
Isadore (another favorite of mine)
Defiance (short but sweet)
Switchblade (they're trying too hard to be funky and badass on this one, yet it's catchy enough that I like it)
Adolescents (not quite as good as I was hoping it would be, given that's it's the lead-off single, but still a good song)
THE NOT-GOOD-ENOUGH SONGS
Friends and Lovers (not a terrible song but doesn't do enough to interest me)
Thieves (sort of in-between and might eventually make my cut among the good songs, but for now it just doesn't work for me)
The Original (pretty lame - I'm hoping maybe eventually I'll grow to like it, but I doubt it)
In The Company of Wolves (so disappointing - first 3 minutes are pretty good, and could've worked as a stand-alone song, but then the band tries to stretch things out and get into a groove, and it just gets boring because they don't bring enough, musically, to the table to make it interesting)
Tomorrow's Food (I could say the same about this that I said about The Original)
Overall, it's a pretty even mix of good and not-so-good, so I should probably give it 3 stars, but I think it's more like 3.5 since even the not-so-good songs are not terrible, and have some redeeming qualities, so I'll round up the 3.5 to be a 4.
Quite a while ago, I heard about this project from Mike Patton, watched some videos of him performing these songs online, and realized that an album of this stuff would be amazing.
Finally, the album has been released, and even though my expectations were very high, it has managed to somehow exceed them tremendously.
I think Mike Patton is the greatest singer of all time. You may or may not agree, but if you are familiar with the diverse range of his work, you may see where I'm coming from - the guy is a freakin' vocal magician, able to pull so many different sounds out of his vocal chords like pulling rabbits out of a hat.
Now, for his latest trick, he sings Italian pop songs in perfectly fluent Italian, backed by multiple musicians including a full orchestra.
I can't imagine anyone disliking this album. Well, if you are turned off by lyrics you can't understand, you may not like it, but really that shouldn't keep you from this album - it's just too good to let that stop you.
If life was fair, this would be one of the highest-grossing albums of all-time and would be enjoyed by millions of people around the world.
However, life is not fair, and I would guess this album will sell relatively few copies.
You owe it to both Patton and yourself to get it now - support good music! Enjoy good music! Spread the word!
I have a habit of buying albums and then selling them eventually.
It is this habit that led me to buy pretty much all of the prior Deftones albums, and then sell all of them.
Diamond Eyes makes me feel like a total idiot for doing that, because it is so good it has caused me to re-think my opinion of the Deftones completely.
In the context of this masterpiece of an album, it's now very apparent that the Deftones are one of the greatest modern bands.
Basically, this album took me by complete surprise - I got it because of all the positive reviews I was seeing, but my attitude was "Well, it can't be as good as everyone is saying, right?". But it is. This album is lots of things. It kicks you in the face with aggression at times. It also demonstrates the mellow, melodic influences of the band at other times. At all times, it is clearly the work of a lot of effort by the band to put out the best record they can - it is an emotional record in many ways, likely due in large part to the tragedy of Chi. And it needs to be viewed in the context of Eros, the record they recorded right before this one and then cast aside as not being good enough. Clearly they were determined to put out something great, not merely something they could get some album sales off of and promote on a tour.
What stands out the most for me on this album is how good of a singer Chino is, and how his voice can be so melodic, and yet so harsh, sometimes pretty much at the same time. I think he is one of rock's greatest singers, alongside a diverse array of singers with unique never-will-be-replicated voices such as Robert Plant, Mike Patton, Maynard James Keenan, Morrissey, and others.
There really is no need to go further in this review, because the task at hand for you, the reader, is simple. If you truly liked any Deftones album in the past, you will almost certainly like this one, as long as you appreciate both the aggressive and soft sides of the band - therefore you NEED to buy it, and give it plenty of listens to digest it before deciding if you like it or not. If you only like one of those sides of the band, or if you never liked the band at all, then you are unlikely to like this album, because it really is a culmination of all of the best aspects the Deftones have offered in the past.
Essentially, while adding nothing really new to their music, Diamond Eyes is the perfect crystallization of years of effort by the band to achieve a certain type of sound - a sound no other band comes close to pulling off - the Deftones sound.
There are some people out there who simply don't like Coheed. Maybe it's Claudio's high-pitched singing, maybe it's his huge frizzy hair, but something about the band turns them off. Other people are obsessed with the band. These people tend to love pretty much everything the band releases, and these are the same people who have religiously read the comics that tell the story of the music.
On the other hand, I fall in between these two extremes. I think Coheed is a great band. In fact, I think that if history is fair, they would be regarded in the future as one of the premier bands of this era, much the same way that classic bands from the 60's and 70's are thought of now. I particularly liked Coheed's second and third albums, but I think their first exhibited "Debut Syndrome" where a band hasn't quite reached its potential, and their fourth release exhibits "Mid-Career Rush-To-Release Syndrome", where a talented and successful band pushes a release out the door without taking the time to make sure it's up to the standard of their previous releases.
Year of the Black Rainbow, however, is everything I've ever wanted in a Coheed album, for the following reasons:
1) FOCUS: A fair criticism of the band's past releases is that they lack focus. Sure, there is a cohesive story, but I'm not talking about that. What I mean is, everything from album titles, song titles, song lengths, and consistency indicate that the band tries to do too much. Compare the two Good Apollo volumes (for example, the first had a title with 15 words in it, and the second had a 5-song way-too-drawn-out closing epic), versus YOTBR. The album title, song titles, and song lengths on YOTBR are symbolic of the new focus of the band. Sure, you might say "Who cares about titles? And isn't it good when a band stretches out and frees itself of the conventions of radio-length songs?" To that, I say sure, titles don't matter much, but they can be symbolic of the band's approach to the underlying music, and "stretching out" can be great but only if it's done well, and Coheed has been guilty of doing it poorly in the past.
2) MELODIES: Melody in music is a funny thing. I like certain melodies, and I dislike others, and it's hard to explain why. On YOTBR, nevertheless, there are TONS of great melodies. Specifically, Claudio's vocals are very catchy and melodic throughout the album, and that makes it an addictive listen. Just the simple fact that there is so much melody on the album is great by itself; Coheed can be described as a metal band, although they certainly are a multi-genre band, and a lot of metal is often terrible because of its lack of melody.
3) DRUMS: As I get older, it takes more for music to keep my attention. I look more and more for technical proficiency, even though the most important quality in music, in my opinion, is good songwriting, which generally has pretty much nothing to do with technical proficiency. Finally, Coheed is moving towards combining the best of both worlds. They've always had great guitar work, a trend that continues on this album, but drumming has IMHO been weak up until now. Enter Chris Pennie. YOTBR is his first album with Coheed, and the guy is a freakin' virtuoso. I love his work on this album and can't wait to hear what he does on future Coheed albums. He was an excellent addition to the band and gives them exactly the kind of rhythm-section power they needed, much in the same way that Keith Moon and John Bonham made their bands exponentially better than they otherwise would have been. Just listen to Pennie's work on Guns of Summer and prepare for your mind to be blown.
BOTTOM LINE: If you have never liked a Coheed album, chances are you won't like this one either. But if you have liked anything they have done in the past, or if you have never heard any of their music, you need to give this album a chance. Also, VERY IMPORTANT: when I first listened to this album, I was disappointed. As I listened to it more, I realized that it truly is a masterpiece. If you don't like it at first, be patient with it, give it multiple listens, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed in the end.
On a whim, I decided to buy this album recently.
I didn't expect much, honestly.
I have a lot of respect for each of these musicians, but honestly each of them seemed to be well past their peak.
I was very surprised to see how much I ended up liking (or loving, actually) this album.
Here is what I will call The 6 Reasons Why This Album Is Awesome:
1) Take everything you like about KYUSS and/or QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, magnify it several times, and this is the end product. If you enjoy the work of either of those bands (particularly Welcome to Sky Valley and/or Songs for the Deaf), be prepared to be blown away by this album, as it should be everything you've ever wanted in a Kyuss/QOTSA album. Somehow Homme has done great stuff in the past and yet managed to save his best for when he got into his mid-30's and decided to be part of a supergroup.
2) Speaking of Homme being great, the next thing is HOMME'S SINGING. What the hell happened that made him suddenly an incredible singer? Listen to the way he sings on this album, the notes he hits, the subtleties. It's not like he was bad before, but it's almost like he's a different (and much better) singer on this album than he's been in the past.
3) Not to go on and on about Homme or anything, but the next reason is HOMME'S GUITAR PLAYING. There are some great riffs in here, and just overall his playing is very innovative and interesting. It's all over the place, in a very good way.
4) Dave Grohl's drumming is frickin' AMAZING. Now, I respect Grohl. He did some good drum work in Nirvana. However, I don't think he's a very good songwriter and aside from a few tracks, Foo Fighters music (in my humble opinion) ranges from decent to bland crap. However, (just like with Homme's singing) I don't know what happened exactly, but on this album he's suddenly a virtuoso, pounding out all kinds of crazy drum "riffs" (I'm not a drummer, I don't really know how to talk about drums from a technical standpoint, but this is the kind of stuff that makes me want to be a drummer).
5) John Paul Jones is, well, JOHN PAUL JONES! And he's ON THIS ALBUM! He's in his mid-60's! Anyone who knows anything about rock music knows that he was in Led Zeppelin, one of the greatest bands of all time, and while he was overshadowed by all 3 of the other members in Zep, he certainly is no musical slouch. He's a great bassist, but his musical history is far deeper than that, and I'm sure he brings a lot to this band beyond bass playing. Bass often kinda gets lost in the shuffle within the mix of an album, and this album is no different. To be quite honest, nothing about the bass on this album stands out to me as particularly great, but I'm not the best at picking up on good bass playing, and I bet a bass player listening to this album would have a lot of good stuff to say about Jones's contribution. I actually have a theory about why this album is so high-quality. I'm fairly certain that Homme and Grohl were trying to impress JPJ, and came up with all of this crazy-good material to do that. If that's the case, they probably succeeded.
6) Finally, one of the greatest things about this album is the PROGRESSIVE SONG STRUCTURE. Some songs are long, some are short, but in either case they rarely follow a simple verse-chorus-verse type of structure, and often have changing/unconventional tempos. This sort of thing is common in progressive rock, but relatively uncommon in music in general. It helps to make the album much more interesting than it otherwise would be.
BOTTOM LINE: Get this album. You will not be disappointed. Unless you have terrible musical taste, in which case you will be disappointed.
Ask a King fan what book is his best, and you will most likely hear "It" or "The Stand" as the answer. Maybe the occasional "The Shining", or you may have asked a Dark Tower fan who puts those books above and beyond the rest of the canon.
As for me, I'd simply say "Bag of Bones". I've read almost everything King's done, and a lot of it is great. Really great. He's easily my favorite author, but in my opinion nothing he's written has topped Bag of Bones.
I don't want to say much about the story, as you really need to just experience it yourself, but it is poignant, scary, and somehow awe-inspiringly beautiful.
Read it. You won't be disappointed. Then read his new one, Lisey's Story, which is in more than one way a kind of "mirror piece" when compared to Bag of Bones. By the way, I actually think I read once that King himself believes Bag of Bones to be his best. If so, he and I agree.