Regardless of the ever-shifting respectability of the material, Incubus have had a pretty wild ride on the success train throughout their career – smash singles have included "Megalomania," "Drive," "Wish You Were Here," "Stellar," "Pardon Me" and a whole jumble of other names you’ve either forgotten or wished out of your head because your girlfriend would never shut up about how hot Brandon Boyd is and how you should maybe think about getting those stupid plugs in your ears, starving yourself and getting henna tattoos so she can feel like she’s dating someone with a little bit of… what’s it called these days? Substance? Image? Impossible to tell anymore.
The point is that after 18 years and 6 studio albums, Incubus have amassed a deep archive of hits in their catalogue, and the first disc of Monuments and Melodies is a pretty solid celebration of the more recognizable jams – with a couple curve balls thrown in. Bookended by new tracks "Black Heart Inertia" and "Midnight Swim," the disc 1 is a compilation of 13 singles dated across their career. Inertia’s a groove-steady jam that follows standard formulaics, but with pleasant results. Swim, on the other hand, is a beautifully poetic track that eclipses any of their recent work. Legendary producer Brendan O’Brien might’ve had a thing or two to do with that, but who are we to say? (It was great to hear that he’s been working on Pearl Jam’s next album as well, however)
Ultimately, it’s interesting to see what material Incubus has deemed only B-side worthy, because pound for pound, the artistry and avenues of second disc easily eclipses their last two albums. It opens with a new version of "Neither Of Us Can See", a track originally found on the Stealth soundtrack as a duet with Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. The all-Brandon version is considerably better than the version we’ve heard previously. "While All The Vultures Feed" starts out sounding like a Yeah Yeah Yeahs track, but the chorus is a stone’s throw from radio-smash-worthy, and as Brandon muses "Their appetites callous and menacing/It humbles me/When prey softly outwits its predator/Such is a sight to see" in the breakdown, I’m reminded of why I’ve forgiven this band’s more sitting-duck avenues in their career: there is a redeeming poetry to be found in Boyd’s philosophical musings.
"Anything" sounds like a middle-ground mediator between the band’s transitioning sound through S.C.I.E.N.C.E. and Make Yourself, a bit subdued instrumentally, but Boyd’s trademark melodic structures and lyrical designs carry much of the weight here, as evidenced in fan-favorite slow-build "Punch Drunk" as well. "Admiration" is still waiting for the credit it deserves, and this may be the time for the track to finally get some light. But if set head to head with follow-up track "Martini," the latter would likely take the win, a stop-start groove with venomous undercurrents and punchy steps that’s a sexier jam than most would expect.
A pleasant left step arrives in the acoustic version of "A Certain Shade Of Green," the only showing from the excellent S.C.I.E.N.C.E. album, and a refreshing change of pace before plunging head-first into the saccharine sap of the title track, "Monuments and Melodies". It’s not a bad song, but unless you’re a girl who still owns hemp jewelry and doesn’t own deodorant you don’t exactly put Incubus on to get mellow and introspective.
If you can get past Boyd’s strangely Rivers Cuomo-esque intro, the band’s faithfully awesome version of Prince’s "Let’s Go Crazy" will instantly make you forget the bullshit tracks on Monuments and Melodies and throw you straight into party mode. It’s a brilliant way to end the album – a high-energy dance jam that everybody knows and nobody with ears and a heart could possibly dislike. Listen for guitarist Mike Einziger’s solo at end – that’s the shit we need to hear on Incubus’ next album. If Einziger can shred like that on an actual Incubus jam, this band can lead the party as we rock out to armageddon in a couple years.