Brandon Boyd is the lead singer from Incubus. I had no idea that he was making a solo album until the day it came out. I was interested to hear it, but unsure about how good it was going to be. I am a big Incubus fan (well, at least since they made “A Crow Left of the Murder”), but I felt they were excellent because every band member was excellent at what they did. Mike Einziger is one of my favorite guitarists, but he, like the other members knows exactly where to sit in a song, never sticking out unnecessarily or showing off. I also love Brandon Boyd’s voice, but from hearing their older albums and seeing live videos, I was aware of his tendency to ramble on in an oversymbolistic fashion, and play hand drums (damn hippies and their hand drums). I felt that the more recent albums found a balance between his style and the music the rest of the band produces. Like Jack White in the Raconteurs, his over-the-top tendencies are tempered by the other members, and his talents are allowed to shine through. My doubts stemmed from the fact that Brandon Boyd had played pretty much every instrument on The Wild Trapeze, and that it would lack the magic Incubus has as a band.
I was pleasantly surprised by this album. Maybe I’m just turning into more of a hippy in my old age, but I was not bothered by Mr. Boyd’s wordy, wacky-tobaccy fueled writing (he was actually on a prescription for medical marijuana because a severe injury during the time he wrote the album). It certainly is hard to seperate this album completely from Incubus – Brandon’s voice is too distinctive – but this album does not suffer for the comparison. Any one of the songs could be plucked out of this album and dropped right into an Incubus album without it sounding misplaced, but as a whole album it is obvious the other members of Incubus are not present. This album found Brandon exploring more acoustic sounds, with each instrument’s part being fairly simple, while the arrangements and layering are quite dense at times. Most songs are anchored with acoustic guitar (on which they were written), and then adds doses of electric, sometimes fuzzed out bass, enourmous sounding drums and percussion in sparse beats, and smatters of piano, organ,other keys and ambient and backward sounds here and there. I commend Mr. Boyd on holding his own without his talented bandmates, and producing an interesting and enjoyable batch of songs. I also cannot wait to hear his voice on top of his band again sometime soon.
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The Wild Trapeze – Almost sounds like a strange acoustic cover of an Incubus song. The most energy I have heard from a nearly entirely acoustic song in awhile. Brandon sings in a much lower voice than usual for some of the backup vocals, but belts it out in his usual rock frontman style for the chorus.
Courage and Control – Probably the most sparsely arranged songs on the album. Just acoustic guitar and an added piano in the chorus serve as a background for the vocal, which is certainly the centrepiece of this song. Sounds like a tip of the hat to John Lennon at times.
Last Night a Passenger – I like fuzzy backgrounds with clear vocals. I love piano echoes. I like this song.
I feel that much of this album was inspired by the writing of Earth to Bella Part 1 off of Light Grenades, Incubus’ most recent full studio album. Written by Brandon Boyd on acoustic guitar, and imagined to become a Massive Attack-ish song, it morphed into something that was very much Incubus with huge, distorted bass on the chorus. For The Wild Trapeze, Brandon seemed to mix the feelings of E.T.B.’s verses and choruses together to create an honest, natural, but bombastic sound.
It is also important to note that the use of hand drums was not over the top on this album. High Five.
I think many people will enjoy this album. Incubus fans for sure, possibly also people who enjoy solo-ish acoustic-ish acts such as Jack Johnson or City and Color. Also, if you think Brandon Boyd is a dreamboat, this collection songs will not be likely to discourage that opinion. Sigh.