Ilan Rubin is truly something of a musical wunderkind. At the age of 11 as a member of the band F.o.N., he made the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest musician to perform on a Woodstock stage in 1999. As a regular member of Nine Inch Nails since 2009, he became the youngest living inductee in the history of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. He’s also played in bands like Lostprophets, Paramore, and Angels & Airwaves, along with his own band, The New Regime, which in 2019 started to release a series of EPs that would ultimately be compiled into this album.
Heart Mind Body & Soul is so aptly named as all facets of Rubin’s musical identity are on full display, as elements of funk, disco, glam, punk and post-punk, and even bits of new wave all appear sprinkled throughout the record. For example, “Knocking Down Your Door” evokes the sleazy cock rock of New York City in the late ‘70s with its punchy strutting riffs and rhythms, topped off by the salaciously delightful chorus lyric of “The status quo has left me wanting more, give me what you got / And I’ll be right there knocking down your door, taking what I want.” The same can be said of “You Can Be Whoever You Want to Be” with its chunky groove and dirty guitars reminiscent of David Bowie’s “Fame,” while the electro beats and acidic bass of songs like “Struggle In My Bones,” “Surreal Disaster,” “Smoke & Mirrors,” and “It’s Gonna Be OK” all bear a striking resemblance to the more rhythmic and poppy moments of Nine Inch Nails’ With Teeth, the latter track especially marvelous as the processional pianos and ethereal guitars sparkle amid repetitions of the title, straddling the line between assurance and desperation. Of particular note is Rubin’s tenor voice, melodic and refined while belying an almost street savvy swagger, the tasteful layers of harmonies evoking the classic British rock vibes of everything from The Beatles to Radiohead. This is especially so on “She Had Me Wrong,” on which the dissonant chord structures and lush vocals bring to mind Thom Yorke at his most melancholy, while the bright strums of acoustic guitar and wisps of ambient synths on “Tell Me What You Want” are not dissimilar to the pillowy ballads of Pink Floyd crossed with the shoegazing dreampop of Slowdive.
Listening to this record feels almost like a reverie of the bygone days of the ‘90s alternative scene, when bands were willing to experiment with the parameters of rock while still focusing on accessible yet poignant songwriting. And yet, Heart Mind Body & Soul is not so much of a throwback to that era, nor even the wider scope of the late ‘60s and ‘70s that inspired much of it; it’s fairer to say that Rubin has managed to encompass all of that into a tightly knit package that is artsy but not pretentious, earnest but also highly enjoyable. Oh, you’ll surely want to dance to this one!