I have a regret. I’m kicking myself for not getting into The Lemon Twigs sooner. Kicking myself again for not including them in my Top 100 Songs of the Century post. Living life with regrets is pointless, what happened happened. It’s a good thing that I learn about more great music every day, that’s the whole goal of writing about music.
Yesterday I was scrolling on Facebook and I saw my friend, Esteban (who has amazing taste in music), share a post about The Lemon Twigs’ new album which had just come out.
Two awesome bands. The Lemon Twigs and White Denim, releasing albums on the same day? Great minds think alike. I didn’t want to oversaturate the blog with two reviews, so I am posting my review of Go To School today. My blog isn’t a newspaper, it’s just where I share my honest thoughts, bluntly and directly about bands.
Don’t worry, the promised Country Rock post series will be coming soon. First post will definitely be published before I leave for Australia (take two).
About The Lemon Twigs
Formed in 2014 in Long Island, New York, The Lemon Twigs are brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario, sons of session musician Ronnie D’Addario. They are the faces of the band, and other musicians like bassist Daryl Johns, keyboardist Tommaso Taddonio, and drummer Andres Valbuena join them.
The D’Addario brothers are really young, younger than me. Michael was born in 1997 and Brian was born in 1998. Everything about them is retro. Their musical inspirations from The British Invasion to power pop and glam rock. Their first release, What We Know in 2015, was released on the less talked about, but still loved throwback format of the cassette tape. This was a limited edition release of 100 copies (and it’s not on Spotify), hipster (in a good way), but I love it.
It’s really different from the straightforward rock Do Hollywood and has a lot more effects, and sounds more psych, but it’s really good. My favourite tracks are “The Corners I Was Locked Behind (When I Was There)”, “Soothe”, “Go On Without Me”, and “Future Funk #19” (love the James Gang reference in the song title).
Musicians from the era love them. Some famous fans include Elton John, The Zombies, Gary Brooker from Procol Harum, and Todd Rundgren. They joined Todd Rundgren on stage to play “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” from his classic album Something/Anything.
The Lemon Twigs have played Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and Montreux Jazz Festival. They’ve opened for French indie pop band Phoenix and indie favourites The Arctic Monkeys.
First Impressions: Do Hollywood
Logically, I had to start by listening to their second album, or first album released that was not limited edition. Do Hollywood was released on 14 October 2016.
There’s never a dull moment on this album and I can easily listen to the whole album from start to finish. I can really tell they love the classics with lots of inspiration taken from the best eras of music: 60s and 70s.
I added some songs from the album to my playlist of more great songs of this century. My favourites on the album are “Haroomata”, “Baby, Baby”, “These Words”, “As Long as We’re Together”, and “Hi+Lo”. I love when an album has one great song after another great song and this delivers.
It’s the latest addition to the Perfect Albums list.
The Main Event: First Impressions of Go To School
Finally, let’s talk about what you’re here for, their latest release.
I have high expectations for it because I loved Do Hollywood. Will this album live up to it?
A little background: the album cover has a little chimpanzee on it and a couple standing in the background and written in the lower right hand corner is “A Musical by The Lemon Twigs”. NME pieced this together as a concept album about a chimpanzee named Shane who was raised as a boy. Todd Rundgren, Jody Stevens of Big Star, and parents Susan Hall and Ronnie D’Addario join The Lemon Twigs, playing various characters on the album.
The inspiration comes from life experience. Not too long ago, they were secondary school students who were balancing studies with music, eventually touring before the school year ended. Brothers Michael and Brian discussed their ideas together and so Go To School was born.
I’m all about concept albums, so I’ll give this interesting idea a chance.
“Never in My Arms, Always in My Heart”
This glam rock inspired song opens up the musical, introducing the parents who meet, fall in love, try to have a baby and the wife has a miscarriage. A heartbreaking, beautiful, and energetic song. Love an album that starts with energy.
“The Student Becomes The Teacher”
The second song introduces the protagonist, Shane the chimpanzee. The two parents adopt Shane and he learns about human life. One of the important rites of passage is going to school and he learns about this from TV. The strange chorus is paints an interesting story about school going a bit different from normal. I love the orchestral elements in the song, reminding me of prog and art rock.
“Life’s not fair. These kids, they just don’t care. I’ll never let you step foot in that place! (don’t slip away)”
These lyrics are so relatable to anyone who had a bad time in school.
Mother Susan Hall takes over the vocals on this song, conveying bitterness that she didn’t get to realise her dreams. In the story, Shane’s mother, Carol, laments that she could not become a rock star because she decided to become a mother instead. We all know someone who had to defer their dreams because life happens, love a relatable album.
This song takes a departure from their usual classic rock inspirations, instead borrowing from elements of 20s and 30s musicals, combining it with a more contemporary pop-rock sound. It’s always great to see a versatile and eclectic album. Brian D’Addario comes from a musical theatre background, playing Gavroche in Les Mis and Flounder in The Little Mermaid.
It’s interesting to hear things from Shane’s point of view, rather than from the human point of view that we are used to. He’s curious and positive, despite the negativity around him. I think people can relate because when you’re young, you are this bright eyed idealist, to put it differently, a SpongeBob, but as you grow older you realise that things can’t change.
I hear so many influences here from funk to pop to country to a bit of Spanish.
Shane has a crush on Daisy, the popular girl at school, but it’s unrequited. Another relatable song.
This bossa nova inspired song tells the story of the school bully, Robert Jr, who is abused by his father Robert Sr, and takes it out on Shane. Robert Jr’s backstory is even sadder, with his mother dying at birth and the father blaming her death on him.
The reason for the bossa nova sound is to symbolise a high school marching band.
This song reminds me a bit of “Cousin Kevin” from Tommy, I can call this one the “Cousin Kevin” of the album.
An oldie, but goodie, written when Michael was 15 or 16, repurposed for the story of Shane. It’s a very frankly written diary entry of a song. It’s relatable. The strings work perfectly for the lonely and sad mood this song describes. I could definitely picture a film adaptation to this.
“Queen of My School”
If you got the Japanese version of Do Hollywood, you might have heard this one before as a bonus track. The power pop mood more fits in with that album and it’s a nice change from the last few tracks. If you like bands like Big Star and Cheap Trick, you’ll like this song.
It simply tells the story of outcast protagonist Shane meeting the popular girl at school, Daisy. The lyrics and music definitely are the perfect throwback to when power pop was on top. Simply put, Shane’s thinking “senpai noticed me”.
Todd Rundgren is a guest musician here playing Shane’s father, Bill, in the song that tells the story of Shane’s origins. Shane is old enough to understand these concepts. Much like some adopted kids, Shane feels sad, confused, and isolated.
This song is a real treat and a standout on the album.
“Born Wrong/Heart Song”
You better work, rhyming title! This Broadway inspired song is a continuation of the last song, with Shane’s analysis of the situation. You can hear the vulnerability in the delivery of the vocals. This reminds me a lot of Disney in a good way.
Love a rock and roll climax! I’m living for the intro and bridge. Powerful vocals and great instrumentals.
Right before the fire, Shane is in gym class and it’s the same old same old, classmates laughing at him. Suddenly, the school is on fire, taking the lives of 100 students. Shane is isolated, feeling unwanted by his parents and his girlfriend. Shane decides to run away from all these problems. Will it help?
“Home of a Heart (The Woods)”
This was one of the first songs written for the record. It tells the story of Shane hiding in the forest after the fire, basically building a wall between him and what was going on at school at at home. It makes sense why teenage Shane would run away from all that. It’s a thought that runs through a lot of young people’s heads.
“This is My Tree”
This song is a throwback to beginning of rock and roll in the 50s. The lyrics give a different mood, talking about the tranquility of being alone in the woods. I’m gonna call this an introvert’s anthem.
“If You Give Enough”
A soft piano song with a bit of theremin in the middle. The song talks about how Shane gives love to others and wants it to be returned and so far it hasn’t been.
“Go To School”
The finale is the title of the album, tying all the themes of the album together. Short and sweet. Not many lyrics here, but it tells a lot.
It’s a different album from Do Hollywood and a nice change from that. You’ll still get some familiar power pop songs with songs with different sounds like Broadway and bossa nova mixed in.
The album is creative, with a lot of thought put into it. It’s a breath of fresh air, relatable songs that make you think. The Lemon Twigs tell a compelling coming of age story of Shane the Chimpanzee.
If you want a physical copy of the album, you can buy it on their website.