New Medicine seems to be dawning at just about the perfect time. While popular music remains entrenched in the throes of an electronic revolution, a predicted comeback of industrial music has been flagging behind. Building up to that potential future though, has been an influx of rock and metal bands who generously incorporate the tents of electronic into their sound, easing us into this brave new reality of music. New Medicine toes that line even more daringly than most, tipping the scales slightly from rock to electronic with the promise of something new.
The instant headline of New Medicine’s new album “Breaking the Model” is the bold vocals of front man and nerve center Jake Scherer. His presentation is commonly a half-barked rapping, which reminds subtly of the heyday of Zack de la Rocha. That’s not to say that Scherer is bringing that level of vitriol of political awareness to the proceedings, but his delivery is the closest echo we’ve heard to Zack since the genuine article. You can hear the blood drop from his mouth during the accusatory (and perhaps slightly misogynistic) “Broken Girl,” but he brings the same vehement delivery for the majority of the record.
The record’s standout moment also doubles as the poppiest moment, which is the single “One Too Many.” The song brings a rousing chorus and adds in both an edge of electronic music and some crunchy rock stylings, throwing them all into a stewpot and emerging with a flavor that’s Jet-esque, but with, wel, more rap and digital effects. Okay, maybe we’re not describing it all that well, but it’s a difficult concept to put into words, and that’s a credit to the album for at least being innovative enough to give us the same dish served in a new way.
There’s definitely more going on here than we’ve come to expect from the acts that New Medicine will be associated with. The purely juvenile lyrics and pukey, pop-punk vocals of the recent glam and androgynous rock revival we’ve been subjected to have little hold here, and wouldn’t have worked for a song with the punch of the opening title track.
It would be intensely hypocritical of us at this site to cast stones at New Medicine for trying to be a lot of different things, when we criticize others for pigeonholing themselves fairly often. That said, New Medicine goes in a lot of different directions. Listen to the opener and then “Heart With Your Name On It,” and realize it’s the same band. It can be distracting and frustrating to listen to, as they seem to engage in variety for variety’s sake, rather than as a calculated expression of versatility.
The combination of Scherer’s vocal palette, the natural unbalance of the music and the screwball directions it goes in can make “Breaking the Model” a challenge if trying to listen to the whole record in one rip. The album regresses to its own mean, and although there are many experimental moments from beginning to end, there is an omnipresent sense of the underdeveloped – a juvenile streak that mainlines the basic mores of drunken party rock. There’s nothing wrong with drunken party rock, mind you, but in light of its presence on this record, much of the academically intriguing overlay becomes window dressing. Speaking plainly, the package gets annoying after about twenty-five minutes and is best resumed at a later time. It doesn’t help matters that the record is front heavy, with all the best, genuinely enjoyable moments during the first four or five selections.
It’s easy to sympathize with New Medicine; these boys don’t want to be the same ole’ thing, which is a laudable goal. “Breaking the Model” shows moments of promise, but the successful execution of the ideal the band is striving for will require further tinkering and above all, refinement. There are places to tighten this down, and if New Medicine can consistently replicate what’s right with their single “One Too Many,” then they’ll truly have something.