The Lemon Twigs - Go To School

by Mark Moody Rating:6 Release Date:2018-08-24
The Lemon Twigs - Go To School
The Lemon Twigs - Go To School

Spoiler alert:  Couple wants baby; couple is infertile; couple adopts; child is sheltered and wants to go to school like the other kids; child is bullied by the boys and scorned by the girls; retribution follows; child is exiled; exile ain’t so bad.  Further spoiler alert:  the child in question here is a chimpanzee named Shane.  Welcome to Go To School, the sophomore release by The Lemon Twigs.  In full disclosure, the musings of Brian and younger brother Michael D’Addario are a bit of a moth to the flame experience for me.  That being said, given a few hits among the misses and being early on in their musical journey I felt compelled to see their next step.  Most of the D’Addario brothers’ compositions to date have a Spike Jones inspired lack of focus about them.  Snippets of brilliance are surrounded by chaos that can try one’s patience, but the handful of pearls are usually worth the effort.

Hearing that the duo’s latest effort is promoted, on its cover no less, as a musical is met with a mix of caution, trepidation and dread.  Next knowing that the “star” of the show is a monkey and that the album is an hour long induces shivers.  The one hope that manages to shimmer through in that dynamic is that most musicals have a narrative and maybe that construct would force some focus on the brothers who otherwise are typically bouncing off the walls.  That hope comes at least partially true here.  The album takes on a more of a Vaudeville/Variety show feel with many songs taking on fully different styles but at least maintaining one style per song and forwarding the plot.

Shane and his barren parents’ story begins with a Mott the Hoople style rave-up, ‘Never in My Arms, Always in My Heart’, that sets the stage with mom-to-be’s command to “get on top of me” not bearing fruit.  On the Tommy inspired gravitas of ‘Rock Dreams’, the parents are gamely played by Todd Rundgren and the D’Addarios’s real-life mother, Susan Hall.  There are a few treacly tracks woven into the first half, but the Kinks’ Variety show styled ‘The Lesson’ and early highlight ‘Small Victories’ power things along.  The bossa nova flavored ‘The Bully’ humorously sheds some insight into the reasons behind school thug Robert Jr’s cruel streak, but nonetheless he smashes Shane in the head.  Given some experience with the Broadway show formula, ‘Lonely’ seems the perfect power ballad to close out a first act with our hero pining for a girlfriend as the curtain closes.  Any seasoned theater goer knows this is the spot to scramble to the cocktail line and hope for the best as the second act looms.

Hope does spring eternal for Shane, and the audience, as the second act opens with a boisterous rocker celebrating Shane’s hookup with the ‘Queen of My School’ - “students want her, teachers too.”  Rundgren makes a return appearance to let Shane know the sad news that he and Mom are not his real parents.  Central to the second half is the country tinged ‘The Fire’.  There’s a bit of comic relief in being told Shane’s only school success was on the ropes course, but that’s not enough to keep him from torching the high school.  Probably not the most sensitive of resolutions in the current climate, but the track itself is a bright spot.  Retreating to the woods, ‘Home of a Heart’ has the feel of Rundgren’s own ‘The Range War’, which back in the early 70s covered as much narrative ground in two-and-a-half minutes as this album does in an hour.  Nonetheless, the Stonesy bar band rollick of ‘This Is My Tree!’ is the botanical equivalent of ‘Get Off of My Cloud’ as Shane settles into his rightful forest home.    

In these days, where everyone has succumbed to a fast twitch attention span it’s understandable that hardly anyone will commit multiple hours repeated play time to let this album sink in and normalize.  Add to that the irony that the D’Addarios are standard bearers of the inability to maintain focus and the ask becomes totally unreasonable.  But like most musicals, for most people anyway, in spite of the initial resistance to give in you are usually won over by the end.  Though the animal rights folks would not allow a real chimp take the stage night after night, Shane might slowly win over your heart if you let him.  Not likely to unseat Hamilton any time soon, Go To School still isn’t as rotten a banana as it could have been. 

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