David Newton doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone at this stage of his career. The veteran player spent time as the guitarist of The Mighty Lemon Drops and Blue Aeroplanes before turning his attention to production and engineering, but in his new album A Gateway to a Lifetime of Disappointment with Thee Mighty Angels, he’s letting the world know he isn’t done on the other side of the glass just yet. A Gateway to a Lifetime of Disappointment might just be the most ironically-titled record I’ve heard in 2020, but to a certain extent, its content is every bit the introspective journey this name would allude to.
There’s a ton of surreal, psychedelic-influenced alternative rock in the market right now, but I like that Newton and Thee Mighty Angels give us the cerebral side of indie in “My First Band,” “This Time,” “The Kids Are Not Alright” and “Connect with You” whilst leaving the druggy finish out entirely. This is arguably a lot more effective than what some of their closest competition in the underground has been trying in recent years, not to mention a heck of a lot more telling of this group’s creative intentions (and priorities) long-term.
You’ve got to love the sharp interplay between the players here, and in songs like “Paint the Town,” “In Love and War,” “Avoid It” and “Bittersweet,” I think it shows us just how much unforced chemistry they really enjoy. There’s never any doubts as to whether or not all of it is centering on the easy-dispensing lyrics of one David Newton at the forefront of the master mix (save for “The Songs That Changed Our Lives,” which features Eddie Argos on lead vocals), and even without the music being arranged in this fashion, my gut says his would usually be the brightest of any stars in the room.
“Everything Is Just So,” “Connect with You,” “The Kids Are Not Alright” and “This Time” share some tonal commonalities with post-punk ala Joy Division and The Smiths per-say, but the overall narrative of this record is simply far more optimistic than the genre’s most classic players could ever allow for it to be in their own time. Thus, describing A Gateway to a Lifetime of Disappointment as a throwback in any regard not only seems disrespectful to its originality but, more importantly, a blatant dismissal of how different a world alternative music occupies today compared to some forty years ago.
Fans of indie rock young and old alike really can’t beat what David Newton & Thee Mighty Angels are putting together for the world in A Gateway to a Lifetime of Disappointment this summer, and if I were the only critic saying so it would come as a great surprise to me indeed. 2020 has been one of the more intriguing years for independent music we’ve seen in recent history, and despite the literal isolation theme found in most of the LPs hitting my desk this month, Newton’s is one that asks us to look ahead (and outside our comfort zones) at something more endearing than the status quo would call for.