On 1999’s ‘Make Yourself’, Incubus made waves across the rock mainstream – with stellar results

Eventually going double platinum on the strength of massive singles “Pardon Me”, “Drive”, and “Stellar”, Incubus released Make Yourself to a widening audience without losing sight of their core sound.

Certainly, the band took some flak from older fans of the band for a supposed “mainstream” approach to songwriting. Cries of “wow they totally sold out!” undoubtedly dogged the band at this time. That’s simply incorrect, though. The addition of DJ Chris Kilmore added a more electronic backbone compared to the band’s two previous full-lengths, helping to flesh out songs like megahit “Pardon Me”, as well as taking center stage on the instrumental gem “Battlestar Scralatchtica” (seriously, what an epic song title).

At its core, Make Yourself occupies a middle ground between S.C.I.E.N.C.E. and 2001’s Morning View. With most of the funk and jazz influences of the former gone (though not completely), Make Yourself opts for a more streamlined approach with impressive results. Especially when you consider how much the band grew both musically and artistically in the 2 years since S.C.I.E.N.C.E.

Incubus set themselves apart on Make Yourself in many ways – much of it has to do with their lyrical predilections. While generally striking a much more positive and optimistic than many of their nu-metal peers, that doesn’t mean the record is a sunny pop record, either. In fact, many of the songs revolve around individuality (“Make Yourself”), taking control of your life (“Drive”), and even one inspired by spontaneous combustion (“Pardon Me”). Mike Einziger’s guitar crunch takes center stage during a huge chorus on “When It Comes”, an underrated track that often gets overlooked in the band’s discography. It shouldn’t, though – its blend of alt-rock guitar riffing, hip-hop influences, and electronic soundscapes has the band firing on all cylinders.

Of particular note is how much Brandon Boyd’s vocal abilities and overall range grew on Make Yourself, too. While perhaps not reaching the kind of ebbs and flows found on S.C.I.E.N.C.E., it’s hard not to be impressed by listening to how his smooth vocals mesh with the rest of the band. Take a track like “Stellar”, for instance. One of a few songs here that bear little resemblance to the band’s previous work, it’s a soft, electronically-driven track – at least until the payoff hits in the form of a huge chorus.

Meanwhile, you have tracks like album opener “Privilege” and “The Warmth” that expand on their influences in subtle ways – the former being closer to their older sound, while the latter is something that could fit on a 311 album, but with more vocal dynamics and melodies. In fact, its positive, affirming lyrics of living life to the fullest endeared the band to a wider audience just as much as the streamlined alt-rock sound did.

We haven’t even discussed the likes of the acoustic “Drive” and the megahit “Pardon Me”. The former is a harbinger of the band’s future sound – it could fit right in on Morning View, and you’d never know. Meanwhile, “Pardon Me” is an accessible track that wears the band’s hip-hop influences on its sleeve, with a chorus that’s guaranteed to never leave your head.

In retrospect, it’s hard not to be impressed by Make Yourself. By abandoning (most) ties with the nu-metal genre they were often pigeonholed in, Incubus did things their own stellar way – simply by being themselves.

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