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Album Review: The Lemon Twigs’ ‘Go to School’ is a Risky Take

Combining music and narrative, akin to The Who’s “Tommy.”

Watching a video of The Lemon Twigs perform is like watching a long lost video of a Keith Moon and Todd Rundgren collaboration.

Brian and Michael D’addario’s debut album, “Do Hollywood,” found the New York brothers under the tutelage of Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado, who produced the album. It also found them thrust into a spotlight of rock and roll futurism. The indie power ballad “As Long as We’re Together,” the poppy “I Wanna Prove To You” and the harmonious “These Words” were so brilliantly composed and recorded that it allowed listeners to look past (and even embrace, in the name of rock and roll nostalgia) the mullets and Iggy Pop-esque stage makeup, and hail the siblings as rock’s newest prodigies.

I specifically remember one music review saying that “Do Hollywood” was so good, that it was mentally shocking to sit back and picture what the band would do next. So in total classic-rock flamboyancy, their latest release, “Go to School,” is an incredibly daring rock opera (or “musical,” as the group calls it) that focuses on a chimpanzee named Shane, raised as a human by parents voiced on the album by Todd Rundgren (of course) and D’addario’s own mother, Susan Hall.

Let me start off by saying this: Michael and Brian D’addario are brilliant. Does that sound like total overreach? Probably, but “Go To School” is an album that’s probably going to go way over the heads of many and the D’addarios pull it off tremendously well, almost comparable to The Who’s ability to completely shine through the narrative of “Tommy.”

The only problem is that, musically, this album doesn’t quite catch the duo at their best. Rollicking tracks like “Queen of My School” are definite standouts, (as well as a live favorite that Michael often incorporates into his part of the group’s performances), and “Small Victories,” the second single off of the album, is remnant of shimmery Jack Johnson territory. But where the group’s debut found them in a wonderfully out-there zone, representing the greatest parts of the campy 70s music scene, this album finds them dealing with occasionally subpar music, often struggling to stay on topic with the narrative.

However there are places where both the narrative and the music don’t disappoint; “This is My Tree,” a song about the main character, Shane, being released into the wild, finds them almost mimicking the Rolling Stones, and is a lot of fun to listen to. “The Fire,” a country-esque tune that tells the story of Shane growing so frustrated with his constant bullying that he sets his high school on fire, accidentally causing the death of several students. “If You Give Enough” is classic Brian D’addario, full of baroque melody and longing vocals.

Is this album perfect? Far from it, to be brutally honest, but it’s definitely one of the most important releases of 2018 for one sole reason: the musical concept of “Go To School” is a really bold risk. In an era dedicated to gaining streams and Instagram followers, The Lemon Twigs don’t give a shit about the face value that this age of listeners clings to. Despite it’s weak areas, “Go to School” is a really wonderful look into the imaginative songwriting capabilities and ultra star power that the D’addarios possess.

So don’t be afraid to educate yourselves.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correctly reference the Lemon Twigs. 

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