Lobster Newberg: Vernal Equinox
Sean Briskey – guitar, backing vocals
Victor Vieira-Branco – percussion
Colin Peterik – vocals, organ, keys
Will Gumbiner – bass guitar
Lobster Newberg made their debut in 2007 with “Vernal Equinox.” I was working for Progressive Archives at the time, and was asked to evaluate the band for possible inclusion. Let me tell you, I was immediately impressed. What was even more impressive was how young these guys were (high school age). This album sounds as if it was done by a group of seasoned veterans. The professional aspect could have something to do with the fact that vocalist / keyboardist Colin Peterik is the son of Jim Peterik (Ides of March, Survivor), but the raw talent involved here is the real key.
The music is definitely retro, with an emphasis on organ. You can tell these guys spent a lot of time with their parents’ music collections. However, it is still original and fresh. There is also a jam band feel, but there is decidedly more structure than that. So, pinning these guys down was not an easy task. This is why Lobster Newberg eventually ended up in the Eclectic sub-genre at Prog Archives (after much discussion I can assure you).
It would also seem that this is primarily Colin’s project (this view is upheld by the fact that none of the other band members appear on the next album). He must have a good network with which to find musicians, because all of these guys can play, and play well.
“Equinox” begins with a decidedly psychedelic intro, and then the organs kick in. The tome is a bit menacing, and the band decides to flex its muscle right away. Strength is the vibe I get. The song itself is actually more of an intro to “Paradox.” Once here, things are much more mellow and haunting. It is also the first time Peterik sings. He has an excellent rock voice, and there is a definite familiarity (I was trying to peg who he sounds like, and closest comparison I could come up with is Gary Brooker from Procol Harum). About halfway through, the pace picks up. The tone even changes as they go into a boogie blues. Then it goes into full prog exhibition, and finishes back at the main theme.
“Lloyd” is a rock out in the grand style of Deep Purple, and others like them. Once again, these guys prove they are worthy of banner they carry.
“Tobasco > Sauce” is a little odd. It starts out sounding like cheese (but loveable) horror movie music. You may think they were trying to pen a new them for “Tales from the Crypt.” When the melody and vocals kick in, it puts me in the mind of “Secret Agent Man.” Maybe that’s because a few of the lryics are similar, but there is also something else. The mid break gets Latin, and has a great trumpet part. One thing is certain, Lobster Newberg never lets you get too comfortable in any song.
From the intro of the next track, you would never guess what’s coming. It sounds like another big prog blast is coming. All of a sudden you are snapped back, and say to yourself, “What? Is that … The Turtles?” Yep, it’s a cover of “Happy Together.” I bet you never thought something like this could be prog, but remember, Yes did it with The Beatles. They jam it for all it’s worth too.
“Flaunch” is the one that will have you bobbing your head, and singing along. Here is a tune that the Black Crows only wish they could have done.
“Woods” is the softer side of the Lobster (well, at the beginning and end anyway). In a way it puts me in the mind of R.E.M.. However, the jam out is nothing like the aforementioned alternative rockers. Versatility, and the ability to pull of poignant beauty is demonstrated, if only briefly.
“Irwin” is a more jazz influenced version of the Deep Purple sound.
“African Bridesmaid” is really just another excuse to jam.
“Wentworth” is an attempt at a little more depth and diversity, and the longer “epic” of the album. They do pull it off, but there are some problems. The piece is constructed around a theme, but it tends to get lost. It is still a good track, and contains many good ideas. I think it just could have used more time in development. I view this one as a preview of possibilities for the future.
“Solstice” brings back that poignant beauty I mentioned earlier. In the end it falls apart into the psychedelic aspect of the beginning, thus making it an apt closing. There is also “Hidden Track,” which just continues the psychedelic musings, and adds backward tape (very Beatle-esque in my opinion).
Here is a solid album, and even more impressive considering the source, and that it is a debut. Sure, it’s not perfect, and very derivative, but it’s still very good. It’s also the first time out, so there is plenty of room for growth. The music is bold, exciting, and full of hooks. Even if prog isn’t your bag, you should have no problem rocking out with this.