The New Regime – [Album]

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The word ‘one man band’ has the nasty habit of bringing to mind Dick Van Dyke a la Mary Poppins from 1964. Some guy in a pimped-out barbershop quartet suit with a drum strapped to his back, a harmonica strung across his face, and cymbals strapped somewhere I don’t even want to know about. It’s not a person seen often in the world of music, much less in the head-banging, hard-rocking land of punk/alternative metal. But here’s where former drummer of the Lostprophets and current Nine Inch Nails drummer Ilan Rubin can be found—working on his solo project, The New Regime, and putting together an album titled Coup through the world of digital downloads. A listen through this album will remove cheesy Disney musicals from your mind and connect one-man band with creative tour de force.

Coup was created in Rubin’s ‘downtime’ when with the Lostprophets—the kind of downtime you have when drumming for an international band with a couple albums to their name. It’s a work in modesty; Rubin didn’t want people to necessarily know it was he working on the album and therefore build interest solely based on his name and band reference list instead of the music. It’s a work in anonymity. The result is an album with musical strength, an almost epic rock feel, with nearly every song featuring a thick layering of sounds and vocals that are dark and riveting. There’s an eclectic mix of influences here too, musical poltergeists that seem to be hovering around Rubin in the recording studio.

The opening song, "The Collapse," is the album in miniature: striking piano work, drum-driven and darkly enchanting. The vocals seem to have a touch of Audioslave’s frontman without all the dislike that comes with being Audioslave’s frontman. And is that in the chorus…yes, a hint of Queen (the good years with Freddy Mercury)? Why yes, I think it is! Lyrically this first one sets the standard for the rest of the album; very moody, angst-powered. A sort of finger at old lovers who left you out in the cold and people who make the rules, like any good alternative rock album should be.

Moving down the playlist, "Order Restored" bumps up the energy with a powerful chorus that pulls the song up from what could be called a lackluster opening. Differentiation begins to play here; Rubin avoids the danger of many punk/ alt. rock albums, where so many of the songs are little clones of one another—think the Vanilla Ice/Queen incident—and makes an album with variety.

Works on the album like "All These Changes" really showcase Rubin’s vocal prowess, filling the song with lots of lament combined with a one-two power punch combo of remorseful piano work, but it runs the entire album, and is in fact the greatest strength of the album. Rubin’s haunting piano work that floats into nearly every track without notice until it’s there along with his particular voice quality is really what sets this album apart from the rest of the rock music bone yard. Not bad for a kid who’s never really sung before.

A great example of this is "Time Erase," a song that makes great use of discord—you feel like you’re wandering around in a Tim Burton flick. Lilting and lonely in a beautifully tragic way, this song adds some variety and slowing the pace from the rest of the songs, which are a lot more rock-based, harder and faster, while still maintaining that showcase of Rubin’s vocal chords and piano skills.

But before you start assuming every song is a photocopy of piano work and rock abilities, get into songs like "Haunt My Mind," which has a touch more industrial to it, or "Tap Dancing in a Minefield," which jumps out and audibly slaps you in the face with some fancy guitar riffs. It feels like a Guitar Hero song in its infancy with some classic rock power present.

The New Regime’s album Coup is a great trip back down alternative rock lane. Rubin avoids monotony with class, bringing in styles that will remind listeners of Queen here, Nine Inch Nails there, classic rock ballads over there, fingerprints of punk on that track; there’s even a Beatles memento to the final song, "Somethings." The rich layering of instrumentals and vocal work with that piano that will haunt your dreams and Rubin’s jaded lyrics make you remember why alternative rock was ear-worthy. And dare I say it; Rubin may have just made the one-man band cool all over again.


The New Regime – Coup is out now. Buy it on Amazon.

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