The transition from middle school to high school is an awkward one for most everyone, right? I went to a small middle school, so going from that to the biggest high school in the city was a big shock for me. I became a completely different person once I got to high school, but in a good way. I became comfortable being… me.
In middle school, I didn’t really know where I belonged. I could fit in with the nerds, the jocks, the “popular kids”, but I didn’t really have an identity. I played basketball, listened to radio rap (think Nelly and Petey Pablo), and I wore clothes that no one as white as myself should attempt to wear. I was trying to be something I wasn’t.
All of that changed the summer after my eighth grade year, and I can’t help but think that my music of choice was a catalyst for that change. I had heard Incubus on the radio and liked the songs I had heard. For some reason, they resonated with me more than any other rock songs at the time. In any case, I remember exactly where and when I bought Incubus‘ Morning View. I had just finished my second year at the University of Kentucky’s basketball camp. My parents came and picked me up, but before we went on the four hour drive back to Nashville, they let me go into the college bookstore and pick out a CD to listen to in the car to keep me entertained. Well, I spotted Morning View and decided to give it a try (instead of whatever the latest Trick Daddy CD was). I popped the disc in my CD player, and from that point on I knew my perception of music would never be the same.
Morning View was a revelation for me. Never before had I felt so connected with any piece of music. I was so enthralled with every twist and turn the album gave me, shifting from the loud aggression of “Blood on the Ground” to the soft disappointment of “Mexico” in the span of one song. I was right there with it, feeling every emotion that singer Brandon Boyd was expressing as if it were my own. I longed for a certain someone to be there with me during “Wish You Were Here”. I wanted to rebel against the system during “Under My Umbrella”. I knew that what came around would go around again during “Circles”. I wanted to meet the one during “Echo”. Listening to this album for the first time was a roller coaster of emotions for me, especially since I was a fragile 13 years old at the time. And even if the lyrics don’t hold up quite as well years later, it’s amazing how nostalgia can make that fact basically irrelevant.
The song styles and structures that Incubus used on this album, while not revolutionary, were certainly new and exciting to 8th-grade me, as I had basically only been exposed to typical three minute verse-chorus-verse type songs. My upbringings were not conducive to hearing music that took any type of risks (Christian hit radio was about all I was allowed to listen to until this point). A lot of the disc did have these same radio friendly structures, but when I got to the last song on the album, “Aqueous Transmission”, needless to say, my mind was just a little bit blown. I had never heard anything like it. It was the most exotic song I’d ever heard. I wasn’t used to bands using any other instruments than your standard guitar, bass, drums and keyboard. The oriental sounds were so soothing, but at the same time they excited me. Incubus uses traditional Chinese instruments very well here, creating a wonderfully relaxing closer. At over seven minutes long, this was also one of the longest songs I’d ever encountered, which just added to my enchantment. Similarly, “Are You In?” was a new experience for me. It’s such a loose and fun song, and it really makes you feel like you’re at a big party that Incubus is throwing.
Listening to Morning View was the first time I really appreciated the format of whole albums. Before that, I basically only listened to individual songs, but after going through all the ups and downs and the loud and soft points of this album, I never looked back. I always looked to replicate this feeling that came with all of these different songs being sewn together in one context to make one big experience.
I was as obsessed with Incubus as anyone can be with any band for a couple years. I collected all of their albums, got to see them live during the height of my obsession, and listened to them every single day for a long while. Eventually, they went one direction while I went another (they completely lost me with Light Grenades), but even as I branched out and discovered the likes of Radiohead, Interpol, and Sigur Rós in the year after I first discovered Incubus, I never forgot Morning View. I will forever have a connection with that album. Even as I listen to it right now, it just does something to me. It transports me to a different time when things were more simple. And after all these years, I must say that the music itself is still damn good. And coming from a music snob like me, that is no small feat.