Release Date: Aug 24, 2018
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Not so much a traditional album as a high-concept, theatrically overblown rock opera, ‘Go To School’ exists in a venn diagram of one right now. Sure, affiliations with pals and first album producers Foxygen might be in the vague eccentric ballpark, but even the latter’s adventures in retro oddity have nothing on this: a musical by any other name, about two failed entertainers and their adopted chimpanzee son, Shane. In the hands of most, it would all be self-consciously kooky enough to immediately land in the bin, but The Lemon Twigs are masters of multi-layered, intricate instrumentation and nostalgic, classic melody.
After assessing the options for their second proper album, the Lemon Twigs settled on a concept record about a childless couple adopting a chimpanzee named Shane and raising it as a human boy who deals with bullying, ostracism and rejection by setting his school on fire. The other option, a more autobiographical collection of straight-forward pop songs, "didn't feel like much of a risk," co-founder Brian D'Addario has said. The risks are as much musical as narrative: D'Addario, 21, and his brother, Michael, 19, go full-on musical theater on some tracks here, in between hopping nimbly through the sounds of 1970s rock.
I believe in reincarnation. I find it hard to accept that some people simply developed quicker or in a more profound way, especially when it comes to the genius-like quality of their art or any other type of subtle and almost empathic communication. Brothers Brian and Michael d'Addario are living proof of the existence of previous lives; even if their family/overall social context did allow for an unusual appetence to musical endeavours, their prolificness allied to an inherent maturity of their compositions (especially melodic-wise) is almost scary in the way they transpose it to the physical plane.
When the Lemon Twigs' 2016 debut Do Hollywood arrived, it sounded like a weird dream where an even more over-the-top Sparks covered Harry Nilsson. If the band sounded like they were raised on musical theater and power pop, it's because they were, with brothers Brian and Michael D'Addario born to '70s multi-instrumentalist/songwriter father Ronnie D'Addario and musician mother Susan Hall, who helped them realize their young dreams as child actors. With parents that introduced them early on to dazzling rock & roll and Broadway musicals, the glam-infused pop sound that materialized by the time the teenagers started making records of their own is no surprise.
Go to School, the sophomore album by Long Island duo the Lemon Twigs, is a musical about a monkey, but there's a twist: It's actually about us. Like the cinephilic siblings of The Wolfpack and the precocious outcasts of "Home Movies," the brothers in the Lemon Twigs--19-year-old Michael and 21-year-old Brian D'Addario--see the world most clearly when it's filtered through their own charmingly warped lens. Listen to Go to School on a surface level, and you'll get the tale of an adolescent chimp, raised by humans, who gets his dreams crushed and his heart broken before returning to nature in a symbolic blaze of freedom and destruction.
They say that each generation's cycle is shorter than the last. It was once thought unbearably precocious that a 24-year-old Pete Townshend would compose and release a rock opera, but here we are at the release of the second Lemon Twigs album and the brothers D'Addario are still only 19 and 21. Anyone familiar with their 2016 debut Do Hollywood will not be surprised to hear that their next release is a full-blown rock musical.
The D'Addario brothers just about make the grade on this frustrating but endearing rock musical Turns out, people fucking love musicals again. Take a peek at the album charts here in Britain and you'll see that the soundtracks to some of this year’s biggest cinematic musicals, The Greatest Showman and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again , have throttled the top spots for a few months now. So far, it's stopped heavyweights like Florence & The Machine, James Bay, Nicki Minaj and more from hitting the top spot.
One mention of the phrase 'rock musical' and what might spring to mind is 'Tommy' and 'Jesus Christ Superstar' -- both works with highly specific concepts. Joining this genre category are The Lemon Twigs with their sophomore effort, 'Go To School', a tale of teenage angst, the trials and tribulations of life, and a chimpanzee called Shane. With fifteen tracks of highly conceptual work, 'Go To School' might seem daunting to the casual listener, however once you're fully immersed, the album tells of heartfelt and relatable tales.