So, Dave from Midwest Music Scene asked me if I wanted to do the review of the Minneapolis, Minnesota band New Medicine’s second album, Breaking the Model. I am sorry to say that I had never heard of New Medicine. I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable about all genres of music (although I will freely admit that I have had difficulty keeping up with the massive proliferation of new artists and bands over the last 10 years), so I was surprised that I had never heard of them.
Dave sent me the link for the title cut and within 30 seconds of listening I nearly jumped out of my chair. “Breaking the Model” is a song with such universal appeal, with such spirit and power and such unbridled rebellion that I can see no other outcome for this song than topping the alternative rock charts. It is pure genius. For readers with delicate sensibilities, this is where you should stop reading this review. The language is gonna get kinda blue from this point forward. You have been warned. Like frontman Jake Scherer says in the amazing track 6, “World Class Fuck Up” — Sorry, Mom.
New Medicine’s August 25 release Breaking the Model is a rollicking revelry of drinking, fighting and fornication. I haven’t had this much fun listening to an album since the Beastie Boys 1998 release Hello Nasty. Normally during the course of my review process I will listen to an album about 20 to 30 times. I have listened to this album from beginning to end at least 70 times in the last 2 weeks and I will probably listen to it another 40 or 50 within the next month.
From the opening title song of the album, to the final track “Boy Like Me”, you will find a satisfying variation in tempo and tone, a very rewarding flow of rockers and ballads, and, most of all the sensation that you have received something truly worthwhile: an ass-kicking album full of testosterone, bravado and humor. But don’t let the hard-partying attitude fool you. These songs are truly well constructed, expertly-produced, and enigmatic. The band, which includes vocalist and guitarist Jake Scherer, guitarist Dan Garland, bassist and vocalist Kyle LeBlanc, and drummer Dylan Wood, and the studio production staff make full use of today’s music technologies without abusing them or using them as a crutch to mask weaknesses.
For example, the auto-tune used on Scherer’s vocals in the song “Broken Girl” does not dehumanize his voice, as is so prevalent in a lot of Top 40 pop music today. The technique actually adds a raw quality to the song, like jangly thoughts in your head when you are trying to figure out why the hot chick who only wants to bang you and then leave, acts the way she does. The lyrics describe troubles that young men in the 21st century seem to have, trying to find a young lady who isn’t emotionally damaged or totally off her rocker. There is no misogyny in their lyrics though. These guys might get hammered at the bar and break stuff, but they definitely display proper respect for the ladies.
The ballads on the album, including power ballad “Dead Love Song”, the sorrowful “All About Me”, and heartsick “Boy Like Me” show sensitivity and a real emotional depth. The string arrangement on “All About Me” shows a more mature side of the band and reminds me of a combination of Bon Jovi and Aerosmith (I know, I know, but it’s the best parts of those bands, not the worst parts).
I was so blown away by the title track “Breaking the Model” that it has become my favorite song of 2014. The production of the song reminds me of so many of my favorite bands all wrapped up into one song. The chorus of the song alone should generate enormous amounts of radio-play. The anthemic nature of the song is the 21st century equivalent of the classics performed by the arena rock gods of the ‘70s and ‘80s (think Kiss, AC/DC and Queen). When the song hits its first musical break 60 seconds into the song and Scherer proclaims “Fuck it!”, you know you are hearing a breakthrough album from an exciting new band. I hear influences in the album reminiscent of such great bands as Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails, Aerosmith, T. Rex, Led Zeppelin, and the aforementioned AC/DC. Having said that, don’t think that this band is derivative. Their sound is the natural evolution of rock and roll as it has reached a new level of relevance here in the ‘10s. The band is able to incorporate the modern technologies of music production without sacrificing the raw, balls-to-the-wall nature of good-old-fashioned, gritty rock and roll. And the title track is about standing up to the man. What more could you want from your rock album?
The first single from the album, “One Too Many”, is a great drinking song in the tradition of ultimate party bands like AC/DC. Another song which uses auto-tune to masterful effect, Scherer’s vocals seem to perform sonic gymnastics. The song has a hilarious reference to a particularly unpleasant aspect of post-coitus, among other little lyrical gems that make this a truly perfect single to introduce the album to new listeners. And anytime you have shouts of “Hey, Hey!” in a song about drinking, you’ve pretty much got a hit on your hands. Historically speaking anyway.
The song “World Class Fuck Up” is so catchy that I haven’t stopped singing it since the first time I heard it. As I have mentioned before, I am a sucker for a musical break in a song (it’s got more than one). The chorus is going to be sung by crowds in venues all across the country and I intend to be in one of those crowds. The energy in that concert hall is gonna be off the charts when this song is played. If you can only afford to download a few cuts from this album, “World Class Fuck Up” has to be one of them. You can thank me later.
The next cut, “Dead Love Song”, potentially makes the best use of the new technologies of auto tune and electronic instrumentation. Combined with the doleful guitar and lyrics, the song reaches a pleasant synergy between classic and modern rock by the time it reaches the first chorus and reveals itself as a power ballad. This is another cut that I believe will find its way into radio rotation on alternative rock stations across the country.
The variety of the song selections on this album is fantastic. Scherer has stated that they took some risks with this album and they wanted to push the envelope and do something different, make an album that meant something to them personally. The risks were very well worth the reward. I have heard a lot of good albums this year and so far, this is my favorite.
My last few reviews have been for albums that have been a bit more cerebral and while I enjoyed those albums immensely, it has been a blast getting back in touch with my inner young adult. New Medicine’s songs have brains but they also have balls. Big, brawny balls. The swagger of songs like “Broken Girl”, “Breaking the Model”, and my second-favorite cut on the album, “World Class Fuck Up” is absolutely riveting. If I was in my 20′s, cruising the strip, those songs would be blasting out my windows. I still blast the tunes but I’m not doing a lot of cruising these days. Not at $3.25 a gallon I’m not.
My only complaint about the album is that it is shorter than I would have liked. It contains a total of 10 cuts and each time the album finishes playing, I find myself wanting more. Maybe the band and record label understand the old show biz maxim to “Always leave them wanting more.” It certainly worked in my case. I cannot get enough of this album. If you can only buy one rock album this year (and that is an unbearably sad scenario), then I recommend that you buy New Medicine’s Breaking the Model. It is that great! by Rob Crupper