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* * 1/2 INCUBUS “Morning View” Epic/Immortal

With its occult name, its label link to Korn and its presence on the front lines of Southern California alt-rock activity, Incubus is easily mistaken for one of the nu-metal bunch. But the Calabasas colossus is all arty and not a bit agro. Although you’re never safe from a bone-crushing guitar riff on “Morning View” (in stores Tuesday), the band’s aim remains a grand form of post-grunge progressive rock that’s weighty, earnest and uniformly somber.

Picking up where the 2-million-selling “Make Yourself” left off, Incubus constructs complex shrines to existential questions and emotional straits, sending Brandon Boyd’s high, supple voice on paths made treacherous by melodic and metric convolutions. It speaks to the same musical sensibility that embraces Cake’s quirky miniatures and the Dave Matthews Band’s virtuosity.

There’s something sincere and direct and admirably independent about it, but “Morning View” is performed and recorded so cleanly that it tastes of disinfectant. In its determination to be majestic and meticulous, it rarely admits spontaneity. Some of it is strikingly akin to the music of the great indie-rock band At the Drive-In, but while the latter was forged in scruffy tours of America’s rock clubs, Incubus sounds like a product of the Musicians’ Institute.

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Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless noted.


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