Early last month, local Pop/Rock masters The Newbees were scheduled to present a release party for their fourth long-player, Modern Vintage. The show was to be the second ever at the eagerly-anticipated Southgate House Revival, but the Newport club had some safety code issues and had to delay its opening at the last minute.
Better late than never, The Newbees return to the Southgate House Revival (the club opening the following weekend) for a Wednesday/Thanksgiving Eve celebration of their latest effort. The show will feature music on all three stages; special guests are Sundae Drives, Les Whorenettes, Shiny Old Soul, Dave Hawkins, See You in the Funnies, Honey & Houston, Chaselounge and The Turkeys. Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance through ticketfly.com or $12 at the door.
Modern Vintage would be a great title for any album by The Newbees. On the new LP, the skills and songwriting exhibited by the group members, including multiple vocalists and songwriters, combine for a collection of rich, dynamic songs that seem informed by the entirety of contemporary music history (at least the melodic stuff). The songcraft of The Newbees is impeccable and Modern Vintage contains several of the band’s best tunes to date.
Good songwriting can stand alone, sung a capella or with just a piano or guitar, but another of The Newbees’ greatest assets is their arrangement talents.
On Modern Vintage, the members — all studio-musician-worth instrumentalists — augment the tracks with perfectly placed strings and horns, prominent keys, flawless vocals harmonies and other auxiliary instrumentation and noises. The Newbees also apparently know their way around a studio; the great production gives Modern Vintage a warm, analog feel.
It’s hard to not think of the kings of melodic Rock and Pop, The Beatles, when listening to The Newbees, and not just because the members are also in one of the best Beatles tribute groups you’ll ever hear. Like the Fab Four, The Newbies have an innate knack for memorable melody, are supernaturally effective songwriters and are unafraid to use whatever tools necessary to serve the song best, regardless of the genre.
Husband/wife Newbees founders Jeff (a wildly impressive guitarist as well as songwriter) and Misty Perholtz switch off on lead vocals, adding even more alluring variety to Modern Vintage (and all Newbees’ albums so far, for that matter). And it’s to the group’s credit that the eclecticism is never jarring, as the album rolls fluidly from a standout track like “Nevermore,” a swaying Soul ballad that you might mistake for a lost Aretha Franklin cut, to “Don’t Knock It (’Til You Try It),” which sounds like a mix of Lyle Lovett and The Band, to the Soft Rock sunset-fade of “Goodbye Sun.”
Meanwhile, opener “Medicine Show” is a simpler, uncluttered Indie Pop nugget that Imperial Teen would have loved to have written and buoyant rocker “Up All Night” has the Power Pop pep of an early Elvis Costello track. Elsewhere, the acoustic “Hallowed” has a campfire Gospel sing-a-long lilt and hopeful closer “Find” ends the album on a note of sublime acoustic grace, gently enhanced with low-key synth swiggles and swelling orchestral strings.
Modern Vintage could really just be another way of saying “timeless,” which makes it an even better fit for the title.