I wrote this review for a Literature class at school._______________________Many mainstream listeners will know of the Southern Californian band Incubus only for their pop-rock radio hits Drive and Wish You Were Here. The band has much more to offer, however, and prove this once again with their latest studio release A Crow Left of the Murder. Yet again Incubus has lived up to guitarist Mike Einziger’s rock and roll philosophy that “if you make the same record twice, even if everyone likes it, you’ve failed.” It is Incubus’ admirable ability to reinvent itself with each record that keeps the hardcore fans coming back for more.For this latest effort, they worked with critically acclaimed producer Brendan O’Brien of Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam fame. The influence of O’Brien is clearly heard on A Crow Left of the Murder, with the album managing to capture the raw energy and sound of a live show, without sounding messy or under-produced. The lyrical content of the songs is also reminiscent of Rage and Pearl Jam, but whether or not this can be attributed to O’Brien or simply the current political climate is debatable. The opening track and first single, Megalomaniac, is a politically charged rocker that has front man Brandon Boyd calling out to George W. Bush and co. `Hey megalomaniac/You’re no Jesus/Yeah you’re no f***in Elvis/Wash your hands clean of yourself baby and/Step down, step down’. While Megalomaniac breaks little new ground for Incubus, it is the perfect way to bridge the gap between the group’s previous release, Morning View(2001) and A Crow Left of the Murder.While the first five tracks of A Crow Left of the Murder threaten but never quite explode, it is only when we reach track six, Sick Sad Little World, that the potential Incubus had been hinting at with the previous tracks is finally realised. Sick Sad Little World is a six and a half minute rock-funk odyssey and quite possibly the best song Incubus has written over its thirteen year career, combining a signature Mike Einziger guitar riff with intricate drumming, a killer bass line, ample atmosphere from the turntables and Boyd crooning about a character who could quite possibly be based on departing bassist Dirk Lance. `The world is a drought when out of love/Please come back to us/You’re all of the above/”I’m making a choice to be out of touch, leave me be” he said/”Leave me here in my stark raving sick sad little world!”‘ The song is completed with a two minute Einziger solo reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix, moving from haunting and intricate to just plain crazy.A Crow Left of the Murder seems to be a fusion of Incubus’ former efforts, and the most obvious reminder of this is track nine, Priceless, which could have been lifted straight off the 1997 release S.C.I.E.N.C.E. While not a personal favourite, the almost schizophrenic guitar riff and rap-rock singing style, as well as yet another masterful Einziger solo will appeal to fans of Incubus’ earlier works. Not all the tracks on A Crow Left of the Murder are hard rockers, however. Southern Girl is a love-sick ballad that sees Boyd lamenting `You’re an exception to the rule/A bonafide rarity/You’re all I ever wanted/Southern girl/Could you want me?’ The band also explore the softer side of things with the experimental track Here In My Room, incorporating a piano for the first time in any Incubus release.A Crow Left of the Murder bubbles with social and political commentary, with Boyd voicing his opinions most prominently on America’s involvement in the war on Iraq in a cryptic, poetic manner, as well as a few tracks which could be written about Incubus’ previous bassist, Dirk Lance, who left the band shortly after the conclusion of the Morning View tour at the end of 2002. Replacement bassist Ben Kenney, formerly of the Roots, joined the band for the Lollapalooza tour (2003) and proves himself to be more than competent on A Crow Left of the Murder. The element that appears to be missing from A Crow Left of the Murder is the scratching provided by turntablist DJ Kilmore. While he provides ample atmosphere and interesting sound effects, the absence of the scratching heard on S.C.I.E.N.C.E, Make Yourself (1999) and to a lesser extent Morning View will be a disappointment to many hardcore Incubus fans. A Crow Left of the Murder is from start to finish a sonic journey that will please most current Incubus fans and no doubt convert a few mainstream rock listeners to the more experimental sound of a band who refuses to bow to public pressure when writing their music. It doesn’t quite live up to the brilliance of the breakthrough album Make Yourself, but A Crow Left of the Murder does a hell of a job in trying. As Boyd appropriately asks in the final track, Leech, `The ride’s over/Did you enjoy yourself?’I certainly did.