Bright, brisk tempos become repetitive
Heart Mind Body & Soul is sixteen tracks of new music from The New Regime, the solo project of drummer and multi-instrumentalist Ilan Rubin (Nine Inch Nails, Angels & Airwaves). The songs are a collection of bright tunes addressing the themes succinctly cataloged in the album’s title. Brisk tempos carry the listener along as the album rambles on in its instrumental grandeur, and, on a few tracks, coincides with thoughtful vocal melodies that complement the thickly textured instrumentals.
The tracks are consistently up-tempo and fast-paced throughout, reflecting the influence of the bands and musicians with which Rubin has worked. The combination of energetic guitar lines, poppy synth beats and crashing percussion exist in conjunction with lyrical content that assesses various aspects of the heart, mind, body and soul. On the album’s opening track “A Way to Feel Again,” Rubin covers the potential of the heart to develop an aversion to normality as attraction and meaning digress into a state of numbness, professing that, “all we do is talk and talk for miles and miles/ I forget the meaning of your smile.”
The lyrical content in the album is at times rather uplifting and empowering as Rubin reminds listeners that, ultimately, the greatest impediment in personal development is oneself. This suggestion is evident in the aptly-titled track “You Can Be (Whoever You Want to Be)” where the mind is described as, “a marionette swinging to the rhythm of your heartbeat,” reflecting the fact that humans are innately emotional beings and are often guided by feeling instead of reason. Similar advice for the mind occurs on “It’s Gonna Be Ok” where Rubin encourages listeners to “hold on to that spark in your heart/ it will lead you out of the dark.” But with a conscious mind comes an irresolute soul, a somewhat inevitable process of the human experience. Rubin asks on “Surreal Disaster” that he be allowed to live his own way (“let me live in peace/ I can’t tune in to your manic frequency”), and at times themes of desolation and sadness peek out from under the largely cheery instrumentals and restorative vocals, such as on “Sweet Kind of Suffering” where the artist professes that “surrounded, I still feel alone.”
In the end, this album provides listeners with exciting and energetic tracks, but these tracks tend to prove repetitive. Although Heart Mind Body & Soul contains some thoughtful, well-crafted marriages of melodic vocals and swooping instrumentals (title track “Heart Mind Body & Soul” and fifth track “Struggle in My Bones” are good examples), the uniformity in instrumentals and general lack of variation in song structure overshadows these valuable moments to some extent. Perhaps the most obvious variation—concluding track “She Had Me Wrong”—feels unsettlingly out of place. The gentle acoustic plucking serves as a variation from the complex array of instrumentals in the rest of the album and works as sort of a pause. Maybe this was an effort to create a moment for a message to get across, but the somewhat cliché lyrics about a relationship lack a profound realization, which makes this choice of instrumental deviation a little puzzling.
Overall, the lyrical content of the album shows admirable intent but falls just short in execution, addressing largely the same themes throughout. Rubin’s filling of bridges and gaps in vocals with “oohs” and “ahs” and extension of vocalizations at the end of lines suggests that he is maybe trying to do a little too much. In this instance, perhaps he could have relied more on the promising instrumentals of this album and his impressive musical pedigree in order to make the album as a whole slightly more rewarding.