Cold Winds: Incubus' Morning View And The Knotty Aftermath Of September 11

Once the towers had fallen, simultaneously facing both the body count and the scarred city skyline was enough to realign anybody's perspectives. I was supposedly on track as a college sophomore in Virginia, but it was tough for me to justify continuing on as a student; every day for months, I thought about dropping out to enlist, feeling like a draft dodger even though there was no draft. We waited for twelve hours in a line that stretched around the basketball arena to donate at the Red Cross blood drive, and when our turns finally came, it felt like we couldn't give enough. As a teenager, I was of course unprepared for the kind of trauma that can level a nation. It was a totally new kind of distress, like I was consumed by a grief that was just too big for my body to hold. This, I think, is patriotism.

But patriotism can be a funny thing, especially in the South, where it often threatens to devolve into something much more nefarious. Local goons started throwing sandwiches at my little brother as he walked to school; we're Indian, not Arab. Out in Arizona, a gas station owner named Balbir Singh Sodhi was murdered for wearing a turban; he was Sikh, not Muslim. The ignorance was as alarming as the hysteria.

It almost seemed like the Incubus album released that fall stood in stark contrast to all this. Morning View is filled with anger, but not the sort of brain-dead sludge that defined the nü-metal the band shared airtime with. Instead, it feels like the very concept of aggression evolving before you: coarse distortions sloshing over carefully plotted time signatures and chord sequences, fury with a purpose.

This is a band whose biggest successes to date had been about courage in times of trouble ("Drive") and suicide by sheer world-weary disillusionment ("Pardon Me"). And then there's "The Warmth," from 1999's Make Yourself, which singer Brandon Boyd says gave him chills after the attacks. "My mind goes places with the content, especially when the atmosphere in the room or in the city is heavy with emotion," he says. "I remember playing that in New York City that week and a lyric that had a totally different meaning came rushing to the forefront and took on a new idea in an instant." He's referring to the opening: "I'd like to close my eyes and go numb, but there's a cold wind coming from the top of the highest high rise today... It wants me to discard the humanity I know, watch the warmth blow away. Don't let the world bring you down."

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