The Sun Always Rises: Morning View Turns 20
Serene rock music that could have only been made in a beachside mansion.
Life is good when you’re in your mid-20s, in a successful rock ‘n roll band with your high school friends, and you’re all recording the follow-up to your platinum selling album in a beachside mansion in Malibu. Those good vibes were sonically captured and pressed onto CDs for the world to experience, and Morning View became the antidote for the fear and melancholy that afflicted many Americans in the post-9/11 autumn of 2001.
One of Incubus’ strengths is the positive energy in their music. It makes for easy listening. Don’t get me wrong. They are a talented band with legit musicians and a fantastic lead singer. They can flat out jam, but their albums don’t require a lot from the listener. They are filled with their share of radio-friendly songs, and it’s hard to deny that their best music is effervescent. It’s neo-hippie surfer rock made by full-blown stoners who also like hip-hop, and they dwell in the realm of possibilities with a mind to explore the connections between people. They created a unique sound and identity and refined it to make a fantastic album, Make Yourself. With Morning View, they double-down on the successes of the previous album while pushing their sound in new directions. We needed this type of music back in 2001 as it provided the perfect kind of escape that lifted our spirits in the weeks following 9/11.
It was a bizarre autumn. We were reeling from the terrorist attacks. For weeks after that day, the horrific images we witnessed were still fresh. Having a good time seemed taboo when you knew there were people out there still coming to grips with the tragedy and the losses of their loved ones. I had just started my sophomore year at CSUSB, one of the prestigious state universities in California, located in the eternal well of hope and opportunity known as San Bernardino, and I had also just moved on campus after spending my first year in college as a commuter. It was as an exciting time, but it didn’t feel appropriate to be excited about anything. I was looking forward living in a dorm and experience some semblance of “college life,” which provided a distraction from all of the terrible shit going on.
Most of the friends I made in Mojave, my dorm hall (“B.A.M. guys”), were into music, so we spent a lot of time getting high and listening to the best jams in our collections, new and old bangers. It was then and there when I was introduced to Aesop Rock, Atmosphere, The Refused, and Sigur Rós. I was knocking The Blueprint and Toxicity on heavy rotation, anticipating the upcoming release of Morning View. At that moment in time, Incubus was high on my list of favorite bands. Make Yourself was a fantastic album. I fell in love with it during my senior year of high school mostly because I fell in love with a girl who introduced me to their music. What’s that line from Jules Winnfield says in Pulp Fiction?
“Well, if you like burgers, give them a try sometime. Me, I can’t usually get ’em because my girlfriend’s a vegetarian, which, pretty much makes me a vegetarian.”
It was something like that for me. My high school sweetheart would listen to Make Yourself often, and Incubus grew on me. They provided parts of the soundtrack that defined that final year. They radiated a positive energy that I didn’t hear in a lot of rock music from that era and had a distinct sound, blending hard rocking, earthy riffs with cosmic grooves, hip-hop scratches, and powerful vocals. They made anti-establishment songs and love ballads. Brandon Boyd would kick a little rap, and then he would croon.
In some ways Morning View sounds like a continuation of Make Yourself, but with a slight enough divergence to indicate that Incubus would continue to evolve their sound, for better or worse. There are tracks on Morning View that can be seen as companions to songs on Make Yourself. “Nice to Know You” hits the same way “Pardon Me” did, swaying between the shredding guitars and screaming vocals of the hook and the much quieter, rhyming verses. “Wish You Were Here” is the terrestrial reimagining of that cosmic romp “Stellar”. “Circles” and “Consequence” feel like siblings separated at birth, or in this case, separated by an album. “Under My Umbrella” was created with the same revolutionary spirit as “Out from Under,” and may have propelled the creation of “Megalomaniac” one album later. Then, there are tracks, like “Just A Phase,” “11am,”, “Echo,” and “Aqueous Transmission” that could only have appeared on Morning View (the latter of that group is unique in sound among all of Incubus’ discography).
Incubus was categorically lumped in with the nü-metal bands of the late 90s because that’s what they sounded like on S.C.I.E.N.C.E., but Make Yourself was a departure from the nü-metal buffoonery, and Morning View moved even further down the river (see what I did there?). From the jump, Incubus showed that they weren’t afraid to tap into their sensitive side. Think “Summer Romance” off S.C.I.E.N.C.E, or “I Miss You” from Make Yourself. They continued to channel this energy on Morning View with “Echo,” which isn’t a good song. It fits the beachy, “gazing beyond the horizon” tone of the album and has the band experimenting with different instruments and sounds, but it’s corny.
Morning View was a perfect college dorm room rock album. It had enough edge to play while shotgunning beers and ripping bongs at off-campus ragers, and it down-shifted a couple gears into lava lamp chill mode for quiet dorm room kickbacks. The album’s title also suggests the dawn of a new day and a new beginning. Perhaps its easy to digest track list and mostly upbeat tone brought some measure of hope to young folks caught in the wake of 9/11. However, Morning View was the last of this band’s albums that I liked as a whole. Incubus can sure put together a single, and they had some jams peppered among the scattered mess that has been every album that’s come out since, but nothing after Morning View resonated with me the way that album and its predecessor did. It could be that I outgrew their music, or they grew out of making the kind of songs they did in their youth — that effervescent shit. It’s likely just as simple as pinning it on nostalgia and the good memories I have wrapped around those moments in my life that intersected with their work.
“Circles,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Just A Phase,” “Blood on the Ground,” and “Mexico” are all great, but I these are the gems from Morning View.
“Nice to Know You”
Lulls you into the wading water like a siren before it hits you, face first, with a wave of guitars and drums.
The haunting loop DJ Kilmore laces throughout the song, in the intro and the hook, ties the entire track together.
I am not in this Earthly time and space when I listen to this song.