Incubus - S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (Cover Artwork)


S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (1997)

Epic Records

A lot of great music came out in 1997, that being said, a lot of cringe-worthy output was produced as well. Falling somewhere in between that spectrum was S.C.I.E.N.C.E. by California’s Incubus. I will admit that I have always had a soft spot for Incubus, from the earlier portion of their career to present, so my opinion may be slightly skewed – some people are going to hate on Incubus regardless of which album is being reviewed. The band was a front runner in the nu-metal movement that took off in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, but Incubus always stood apart from the “nookie’s” and the strange mouth sound chanting and “oooh ah ah ah aaaahs” that came out as the decade was brought to a close. Incubus was a band made up of talented musicians, that utilized down tuned guitars and electronic samples that were staples of the nu-metal genre, but they also added elements of funk, pop, and alternative rock, and brought it all together with a vocalist who had legitimate pipes.

Before the huge hits like “Drive”, “Wish You Were Here” and “Pardon Me” came out and launched Incubus into the mainstream music world, we had songs like “Idiot Box”, “New Skin” and “A Certain Shade Of Green”. The songs from S.C.I.E.N.C.E. have elements of hip hop, metal, and alternative rock vocal delivery. It is fair to cite bands such as Snot, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and some other California rock bands that were active at the time as influences on this era of Incubus, but the songs were always able to stand on their own. Incubus sounds like Incubus, they did in 1997, and they do in 2017.

The musicianship on S.C.I.E.N.C.E. is impressive, the drums are creative and solid, the guitar and bass work is complicated and well executed, and vocalist Brandon Boyd has a great voice that brings the late, great Chris Cornell to mind. The vocal delivery mixes in some screaming and some rapping, but still leaves the main focus on well-sung and reasonably catchy choruses. The lyrical content is not as mature or as serious as future Incubus releases, covering subjects such as drug use and partying, and at the end of the day, the aging could definitely be worse.

Music has come a long way since the nu-metal explosion that happened 20 years ago, but S.C.I.E.N.C.E. has managed to maintain itself as a stand-alone release years later. Incubus have grown and matured a great deal since their early career, and to say that this release is perfect would be far from accurate, but it is obvious that potential and skill is present here 20 years later. Unfortunately, the record does suffer from over use of DJ scratching, samples, and other various noodling and goofing around that, needless to say, has not aged well. The hits are hits, and the misses are misses, these are missteps of a band that was clearly in the process of finding themselves. 

S.C.I.E.N.C.E. is a fun listen in 2017; it showcases the skill that helped to launch a rock band into international success a few short years later. The band managed to have a unique take on a genre that would end up being the butt end of jokes for years to come, but in hindsight, Incubus put out a solid record in 1997 that contains some hits that still hold up in 2017.