Alternative-metal bands have tended to embody self-ab- sorption far more than self- awareness, and we've all seen how that has turned out: It's made Fred Durst wealthy in inverse proportion to his talent.
Incubus, at least, has avoided many of the petulant excesses that fuel Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. With a few pop-savvy ballads and a hottie front man in Brandon Boyd, Incubus has even attracted an audience that encompasses more than surly teen-age boys. The group's latest, A Crow Left of the Murder ..., shows a band that continues to evolve.
That's true in two ways. In a literal one, the group added former Roots guitarist Ben Kenney on bass after Dirk Lance left last year. In another sense, the band has grown as a songwriting and musical unit. Incubus is still a tad too mainstream to become this decade's Rage Against the Machine, but some of the songs on A Crow point to elements of the social protest that powered Rage.
The opening song, "Megalomaniac," is a pointed broadside at an unnamed authority figure, and "Zee Deveel" is a sarcastic anti-homage to consumerism, bolstered by a raw bluesy guitar riff.
Incubus' previous albums have featured ever-greater numbers of ballads, and A Crow continues that trend. Boyd warbles with sensitivity over a dreamy blend of guitar, piano and strings on "Here in My Room," and the stuttering rhythms of "Southern Girl" bear a vague resemblance to early Dave Matthews Band material.
The alt-metal sound is mostly played out, but Incubus' determination to continue developing is clear here, and it will help to keep the band relevant in an increasingly splintered music scene.
The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.
Incubus: A Crow Left of Murder ... (Sony) ** 1/2