“Even with the worst of our work I still find stuff that is endearing,” says Incubus frontman Brandon Boyd. “There’s a baseline sincerity to our music. I promised as a teenager that I would do my best to tell the truth.”
We’ve tasked the 46-year-old vocalist with ranking every album in his band's storied career from worst to best, giving it a ranking out of 10 in the process. That’s 25 years of some of the most beloved alternative metal in the genre, and a back catalogue of wildly varying styles and influences. A good man, he’s taken to the mission very seriously, bless him.
“It’s hard to look back and be analytical,” he admits, chewing over his answers, “because I was so committed to all of it at the time. This is a tough one!”
8. Fungus Amongus (1995)
“This is a weird one, it doesn’t feel like a studio album. It was barely mixed and recorded - S.C.I.E.N.C.E. was the first time we had a recording budget - and so this for all intents and purposes is a record... but it’s just the first songs that we ever wrote. If we are including Fungus Amongus that would be my least favourite, but I’d give it a good solid 4 stars.”
7. S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (1997)
“It’s the one that I would assume most people would say is my least favourite. It’s the one I listen to the least. When I hear S.C.I.E.N.C.E. I laugh as much as I cringe, there are some pretty sophisticated things on there for such young kids, but I still feel my palms sweat when I listen to it.
“I like the willingness to be clowns at certain moments, but also to dig ferociously for something: in hindsight, we had yet to find what we were looking for, which is why we’re still a band. Also, a lot of why I don’t like the album is my performance, I had yet to learn how to sing, I honestly didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, I just liked doing it. I’d give it a five and a half out of 10, or a 6.”
6. 8 (2017)
“It was a very different writing process for us, and it has some moments on it, but we’ll listen to this sometimes in rehearsal and there are songs on it where we’re looking at each other as if we didn’t write it.
“It was the longest we took to record a record, it all happened over a year, which was a really long time for us. We worked with Dave Sardy (A Perfect Circle/Oasis), and he was relentless on me, he kept saying ‘This part is good, this part is good... this needs to go back to the drawing board’ or make massive edits, which I’m happy to do. As a singer I want to be challenged.
“It’s a cool record. Sonically it came out very differently, it has a quality that was unexpected. There are a few tracks I really love, but there are a few that should be B-sides in retrospect. I’d say I’d give it a solid 6.8.”
5. Light Grenades (2006)
“Light Grenades was the second record with Ben Kenney (bass) in the band: we were in a creative love affair and still in the honeymoon phase. He and Mikey (Einziger, guitar) had found each other, they were like instant musical partners, and there was a lot of creativity still floating around. But this was the time where a lot of interpersonal differences were coming in, it was the beginning of an era when things started taking longer than they usually had historically.
"There’s some really great material on here though, some, for lack of a better word, classic-sounding Incubus material like Dig and Anna Molly. Those songs have become mainstays in our set, and that’s really a tell, if you don’t play it then something feels incomplete. Let’s say I give it a 7. I’m getting more generous as we go on!”
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4. Make Yourself (1999)
“This is also based on my experiences of making and touring the album, but I think this is our first ‘Good’ album. We showed promise before it, [but] this is the first record where we had a little bit of experience as a band that toured and played shows: we had a few hundred shows under our belt at this point. We toured S.C.I.E.N.C.E. for what felt like forever, but it was really two years. We came back and there were no explicit conversations about needing to write our 'breakthrough' or to write a hit single. We just started writing and this stuff came out more spacious.
“I had my heart broken into a thousand pieces for the second time in my life, so I had a lot to unpack emotionally. I had just turned 23 and I was on tour, there were perspectives that were revealing themselves to me that were valuable as an artist. I had a lot to say. It’s not higher because it was a period of time that was gruelling, my memories attached to it and playing some of those songs were gruelling. We were playing 9 or 10 shows a week: one in the morning and one in the evening, I learned to take naps on drum risers during soundchecks. I’d give this... 8.2.”
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3, If Not Now, When? (2011)
“I struggle to know where to put this one. I am aware that a lot of our hardcore listeners consider this their least favourite album of ours. Or at least it started that way and it has started to grow on people. But this record has a special place in our heart for a number of reasons. It nearly destroyed our band, it was our walk through the valley and we survived. So, I hold this album in such high regard as it has some songs on it that I truly love, and it was our collective near-death experience as a family. We barely finished it, we were hanging on at the end and then we went out on tour, that’s when things really fell apart, we had to cancel a lot of shows. Without going into too much detail, we went through some things that nearly ended us, and the fact we came through that is invaluable to a larger creative process.
“There are moments of honesty on this record that are wonderful, when I hear it there are emotional chords that get pulled for me. Maybe it’s because I was the one holding the thread. There are some songs on here that we just don’t touch live, and that’s weird because they are some of my favourite songs. A song like Friends and Lovers is one of my favourites, but we never touch it, it’s so beautifully complex, and thematically it’s very delicate. We started to learn how to play it as a band and we realised that it is like an open wound and we don’t want to touch it. If I have a visceral and an emotional reaction to something I know it’s worth it. It doesn’t matter to me that it isn’t one of the most popular records, it almost endears it to me more.
“I don’t remember what I gave the last record... but I’d give it a 7.9.”
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2. A Crow Left of the Murder (2004)
“The first record we recorded with Brendan O’Brien (AC/DC/Pearl Jam). It was a full-blown musical renaissance for us. When we started recording A Crow Left to the Murder, we had progressed a lot with Make Yourself and Morning View, but now all bets were off. We dove fully into the rabbit hole.
“Ben (Kenney) joining the band really gave us this huge burst of energy. He was playing guitar for The Roots, and we toured with them and Outkast at the time, and I’d look over and he'd be there watching us when we were playing our set. You’d see him and think, ‘Oh, so you like rock music too?’ He was our only choice when our original bass player left the band. Once we started writing with him it was seamless.
“We were feeling ourselves I guess. We were playing the tracks mostly live, that’s what fun about the album, hearing five guys playing in a room together. It was really fun to make, and it was a really exciting time for us as a band. We toured further into South East Asia, doing some deep international travel and taking loads of pictures. We’ve never really stopped to celebrate our successes as a band, but we really took a lot of things in at that time I remember. I’ll give this an 8.7.”
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1. Morning View (2001)
“This whole exercise has been an exercise in retrospect, and because I, and we as a band, stuck to our guns, we had a feeling this is what we needed to do. Some people will lick their thumb and stick it in the air and see which way the wind is blowing, but personally I always admired the bands, the songwriters, the film makers, the painters who do that to see which way not to go. With greater risk there is greater chance of reward.
“I say all that, but it’s one of our most successful records to date. I put this top because historically when we finish a record, I listen to it for a month and then put it away. Morning View I put on and I am almost entirely okay with it. I have the least critique in it. I’ve been listening to it because the sets we’ve been playing recently have been quite heavy on the material since it’s over 20 years old, and I am quite proud of the record.
“Listening back to it recently I find I interesting to see where I put my voice and how I came up with some of those ideas. It’s still fascinating to me. I think that we did something pretty good for a bunch of guys who were 24-25 years old, there’s some real sophistication on it. Well done younger guys! I can’t give any of our albums a 10, but I’ll give it a 9.2.”