Two years ago, brothers Michael and Brian D’Addario released Go To School, an ambitious concept album about a monkey raised by humans that seemed to revel in being baroque, complex, and sometimes willfully difficult to parse. The Lemon Twigs’ latest work, Songs for the General Public, which was released by 4AD Records on August 21, may not be as high-concept, but it still showcases the brothers’ passion for musical complexity and classic rock.
Songs for the General Public wears its musical inspiration so much on its sleeve that it sometimes falls into pastiche, feeling more as though you’re playing “Name the Influence” rather than listening to songs that stand on their own two feet. The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Bowie, and early Queen saturate the album, and the odd impression that you’re listening to a classic rock station both helps and hinders the album.
Take, for example, “Fight,” a joyfully anarchic song about a marriage on the rocks of a mid-life crisis that sounds somewhere between Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and The Kinks’ “A Well-Respected Man.” Or “Leather Together,” which a listener could easily mistake for the result of Mick Jagger collaborating with Lou Reed. The Lemon Twigs are unafraid of mixing and matching the legends of the era they’ve chosen to take inspiration from, and the result is often glorious, combining rock sound with a pop sensibility that results in amazingly catchy hooks.
At its worst, however, Songs for the General Public can be reminiscent of another duo of brothers, Oasis, at their most self-indulgent. “Only a Fool” and “Hog,” for example, never come together enough to meld their competing influences, and the album closer, “Ashamed,” starts off as a pleasant enough ballad about sibling incest but does nothing to justify its nearly six minutes of running time. Unlike Oasis, however, every song by The Lemon Twigs has a definite sense of humor about itself, so that even songs that seem overstuffed with musical embellishments don’t cross the line into being stuffy or self-important.
Overall, their latest album is a worthy successor to The Lemon Twigs’ previous work. Even if every song doesn’t quite hit the mark, there’s enough musical smarts and devil-may-care humor to make Songs for the General Public worth more than a few listens.
Kemp, Sophie. “The Lemon Twigs: Songs for the General Public.” Pitchfork, Pitchfork, 20 Aug 2020, https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/the-lemon-twigs-songs-for-the-general-public/
“The Lemon Twigs.” The Lemon Twigs, https://thelemontwigs.com
“The Lemon Twigs: ‘Songs For The General Public’.” 4AD, 4AD Records, https://4ad.com/releases/916