Album Reviews

The Lemon Twigs - Go To School (4AD)

Simon William Todd

Musicals are always going to get someone’s back up, aren't they? If you grew up on a parent-fed diet of Queen, you are probably more likely to have a penchant for the twee histrionics of musical theatre than someone who discovered punk for themselves - rash generalisations understood, but here, over-looked.

Not that there ain’t good ones, (and this writer has a particular soft spot for Mary Poppins), but they are difficult to write, especially as audio-only experiences, and the temptation to do justice to the genre that The Lemon Twigs have fallen into leaves them very much in the sixth-form classroom gutter of cheap, pastiche pantomime.

The Lemon Twigs are brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario: mullet-sporting, rouge-cheeked-tinged hipsters from Rhode Island. And for their second album they warble and stumble through a D-grade musical about a monkey that goes to college.

From the shrill end of Sondheim, to the outtake-end of Rocky Horror, the brothers (far from Jake and Elwood) murder their way through 60-plus minutes of aural nausea.

Sure, there’s a consistently smooth and prominent bass that thankfully guides your ear away from the wailing brothers’ alternating vocal duties; coupled with lots of percussive expression from tambourine, hi-hat and floor toms from the multi-instrumentalists.

There are also snippets of beautiful piano parts, if you like 70s Billy Joel, such as on Lonely.

And, if you are lucky enough to catch this album without knowing about its simian-based story arc you might actually enjoy some of it - again, if you enjoy early 70s Elton.

There's also a trudge through ‘oh, we better put some emotive strings in, here’ or ‘we’d better make this one sound like Dixieland to prove our musical chop, there’, which tend to caustically grate on even the most ardent Mamma Mia fans’ cerebellum.

Sadly, for the grim D’Addario brothers (sadly not brothers Grimm) a musical needs a narrative hook - something the audience can suspend its disbelieve to. If you've got the gift, the more ridiculous the better (hello Jesus Christ Superstar, you lovely friend) but here, siblings Brian and Michael contrive their way through a mire of weird freshman rituals and obvious sorority clichés. Never is the monkey off their contrived back.

Empathy for symbolism, or pretensions of political ridicule, are dismissed after about four tracks. So it is with sadness and irritation that a monkey going to school is now suddenly a thing worth parping on about, for a whole hour, and with a sound pallette your local Intermediate school would barf at hearing.

Were your local ‘am dram’ society tempted to put it on, head for the hills.

 

 

Click here to stream or buy
Released: 24 Aug 2018

Written By: Simon William Todd After loitering on the periphery of the London indie scene in the 1990s, Simon hot-footed it to Aotearoa where he loves his family, English language teaching and writing swan songs. He is a keen follower of Tāmaki’s maunga, enjoying rough and smooth basalt alike. A gig and album reviewer and now radio DJ as well, Simon champions the seedier side of electronic pop and indie rock.