Lemon Twigs’ attempted rock opera lacks flow

Courtesy of 4AD
The album cover for “Go to School.”

Josiah Martin | A&E Editor

08/30/18

Sophomore albums say a lot about a band, and where they’re moving next musically. It is odd that the Lemon Twigs’ second album should be a concept album, a musical about a young chimp deciding that he wants to attend school.

The D’Addario brothers, Brian and Michael, are known for their ‘60s-inspired rock sound, which is on full display on “Go To School,” but it unfortunately doesn’t seem that their particular eclectic blend of classic rock influences carries well into a full-length cohesive project such as this.

The opening track is one of the strongest on the album, the crazed Mick Jagger-esque vocals being a slight departure from the brothers’ previous work, paired wonderfully with driving guitars and a complimentary string and chimes backdrop.

The energy is lost somewhat as “Student Becomes the Teacher” kicks in, but the very clear Space Oddity-era Bowie influence and beautiful orchestral part are adventurous and welcome. This energy loss is never quite recovered, however, because this album’s major flaw lies in the fact that it lacks the flow of a rock album or the consistency of a rock opera. Stylistically it bounces around, unsure of what it wants to be. This can work for a musical, but the tracks almost never call back to earlier moments compositionally, and it feels like several projects hobbled together.

Case in point, the songs “Lonely” and “Queen of My School” are among the album’s brightest points, but were written long before this project came together. One must wonder if this is true for more tracks on this album, and it was simply compiled from D’Addario leftovers. It certainly feels like this is the case.

Lyrically, the songs’ connections to the plot of the story aren’t always clear, as the D’Addarios seem to be hesitant to be too “on the nose” with their lyrics. The fact that the songs are about a monkey who wants to go to school is difficult to deduce if you don’t know it going in, most plot points revolve on blink-and-you’ll-miss-it lyrics. The only way I personally was able to follow along was with the help of an NME interview that the Lemon Twigs did with a track-by-track breakdown of the album.

The album briefly comes together and sheds these issues with “Born Wrong/Heart Song,” the lead character’s big solo song, which feels very Broadway both instrumentally and thematically. For “Go To School,” this is the “I Dreamed a Dream,” the “Memories,” the “Gethsemane (I Only Wanted To Say).” The track is the culmination of all the building emotion that preceded it. Its only crime is being too short, a mere three minutes in an album that spans nearly an hour.

The album then immediately hits you with the harsh, loud “The Fire,” fumbling what should have been a smooth transition out of the strongest tracks, and seems to sort of go through the motions until confusingly ending on the slightly avant-garde titular track “Go to School,” a weak ending that wouldn’t fit a stage production.

At the end of the day, if the D’Addario brothers anticipate this to become a stage production at some point, they missed the mark. If it were packaged as a regular album, and was half its length, it would be a strong addition to the still short Lemon Twigs catalog. Unfortunately, it’s drawn out and doesn’t feel like one cohesive story in the way a musical should. However, many tracks stand on their own, and this album still leaves hope for the Lemon Twigs’ future work.

 

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