The Lemon Twigs – Go To School

Once again, the D’Addarios prove themselves to be more than capable of pulling off the preposterous.
Label: 4AD
Released: 24th August 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

When the Lemon Twigs – Brian and Michael D’Addario – released the stop-gap ‘Brothers of Destruction’ EP last September, they said it was intended to close “the [current] era of our group”. It might have seemed a bit high-minded, but the brothers had more than enough talent and charm to carry it off, and the EP – itself following the glammed-up, harmony-oozing ‘Do Hollywood’ – suggested something pretty special was on the horizon. 

It’s fair to say we probably weren’t expecting ‘Go To School’, a rock musical telling the story of failed musicians Bill and Carol, and their adopted son Shane, who happens to be a chimpanzee. It’s the kind of premise normally followed in weighty rock biogs, by lengthy passages blaming the whole shebang on psychedelic over-indulgence and explaining how such-and-such a band then managed to claw their way back from the commercial wasteland. 

But once again, the D’Addarios prove themselves to be more than capable of pulling off the preposterous, and the 50-something minutes of ‘Go To School’ pass by in a rush of precision-tooled harmony vocals, rock’n’roll mini-epics à la Townshend, woodwinds, strings, banjos and chimes. There’s even room for appearances from the kind of 70s royalty the D’Addarios tipped their sparkly hats towards on ‘…Hollywood’, in the shape of Big Star’s Jody Stephens and the perennially underappreciated Todd Rundgren (playing the chimp’s adoptive father). 

While it’s difficult – and possibly pointless – to pick out individual moments from all this elaborate folly, the ballads ‘The Lesson’ and ‘Wanderin’ Ways’ are note-perfect showtune pastiches, ‘Born Wrong/Heart Song’ makes high drama of the fiery end to young Shane’s schooldays, and ‘This Is My Tree’ has a great time with scraps of Kinks, Stones and a hefty dose of the ‘70s Beach Boys – always the connoisseur’s choice, but that’s the D’Addarios all over. 

Closing, the genuinely touching ‘If You Give Enough’ steps aside from the action and addresses the audience, suggesting there’s a lesson tied up in all of the insanity, about the hollowness of avarice and the importance of love. It’s a moment which could only be improved by an on-screen chorus of Muppets. Given what we’ve seen from The Lemon Twigs up to now, this might not be too far off.

Rob Mesure

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