This album starts and ends with fuzzy tone poems, and seems to have two distinct movements. Quicksand starts the first, a downtempo groove with intriguing effects on the instruments and Boyd's signature mid-to-high croon. This leads into A Kiss to Send Us Off, a song that genuinely wants to be an epic. It sets the tension up with a quiet, hopeful intro, and hits hard with bombastic riffing harking back to the band's 1997 effort S.C.I.E.N.C.E., playing dynamics to build itself up. It's honestly my favorite track on the album.
The deliberate move into the more personal and relaxed Dig is a good one, showcasing a little of Incubus' new tricks of the time while still keeping one foot in familiar territory. Anna Molly follows pretty much the same rules with a more uptempo groove and jangly, crunchy guitar swagger. Is it any wonder these two songs were singles? Placed as they are at the front of the disc like this, it keeps your interest quite high for what comes next.
What comes next is Love Hurts.
Love Hurts is... well. This song sort of-
No, I tried, I can't bring myself to care enough about this song to really say anything substantial about it, beyond that we've all heard it a billion times and as an Incubus track, it sucks.
Moving right along, the title track washes that taste out of your mouth by just being cool. It's wild and bouncy, playful and uptempo, and has a tight grip on a punk-rock aesthetic that keeps simplicity and loudness sacred. A breather, in the form of Earth to Bella, Pt 1, relaxes one for a moment before lazily stomping through slam-bang garage rock. This is where I see the first real movement of the album ending, as things change and progress from here.
Oil and Water starts off the next movement, and is so thematically similar to its followup Diamonds and Coal, I find it hard to separate the two in review here. Both are midtempo optimist-but-realist songs about hope, strife, and romance, and come off as love songs that the wired generation wouldn't mind having dedicated to them. Good songs.
Things start to feel like completely new territory with the track I would have picked as a single instead of Love Hurts: Rogues. This song reminds me a lot of really early Dir en Grey - way early, back on Gauze. For those of you who are not as nerdy as me, I'm talking about the unconventional chords that Mike Einziger uses in the verses, and the overall feel he has with his sound in this track. The lyrics speak of social evolution and change, a favorite topic of the band, but in a more general and mature sense as opposed to the snarky or hostile tongue-lashings Boyd's given out in the past.
Paper Shoes is another side of what happens when Incubus plays around with their sound - and it falls flat, to me. It's just boring, it lacks punch or insight that I've become accustomed to from this group, and the whole track sounds more like a bonus disc b-side than something that belongs on an album with the track that just came before it. Also, it feels way too long.
Next up is Pendulous Threads, a daring thrust into much more nebulous experimental territory, making use of odd sounds and ambience in about the weirdest ways since Morning View. It amuses me in concept and is decent to listen to. Some of the chaos crafted on the track feels like unessential random noise, and detracts from what they were trying to do.
The closer, Earth to Bella, Pt. 2, starts with a fade-in riff reminding one of Kansas, sorta fittingly. The song evolves into a tone poem that works as a pleasing end to the journey. Fitting end to an interesting journey through the minds of a group of talented, enthusiastic, and creative musicians.