Album Review: The Lemon Twigs – Songs For The General Public

Whether through the saccharine, nigh operatic heights of early track “Beautiful”, or the gruff bark of recent single “Moon”, The Lemon Twigs have frequently flung their vocal abilities to gratuitous lengths.

With the first track of Songs For The General Public, this metamorphosis goes yet further still, with Brian D’addario letting out an Iggy Pop-type twanging yowl throughout. This untamed effusion is paired with the duo’s 60s’-reminiscent melodicism, a contradictory yet complimentary brightness to the vocal and lyrical slant.

“Hell on Wheels” sees the band reminiscing of greatness of yore: “I thought of us as angels/And I thought of us as devils, too”. This track opens the album triumphantly, although there are still intonations of longing that “We were Hell on Wheels…” but no longer are.

The album is seemingly centred around such an indulgence in the misery and pitfalls of romance, sectioning the listener into a teary but comforting vacuum. “Hell on Wheels’” sublime instrumentation is completed by the heavenly violin arrangement of Kaitlin Wolfberg, along with the enchanting, choral backing vocals, performed by Yolanda Dancy, Maite Christi Francois, Kanisha Moten.

Highly effusive saxophones are provided by Elijah Shiffer on “Fight”, blaring just beneath the rich vocals. As ever, the brother’s lead and backing vocal pairings are done perfectly here, chiming off one another ever so sweetly; creating glorious poppiness on par with the 60s’ best backing vocals.

Thematically, “Fight” is similarly imploring to later track “Moon”, with it’s desperate peals of fleeing: “I don’t have the strength to break away”. Here, The Lemon Twigs’ candid lyricism is extraordinary, with the startling directness of “Baby why?/ Why don’t we have sex anymore?/ Probably cuz/ I’m always stuck picking your socks up/ Off the floor”.

Pensive and yearning, “Somebody Loving You”’s soaring chorus and reverberating bassline is so astoundingly emotive it counts amongst their best.  “Only a Fool” epitomises the lovelorn, embittered credo of the album, in it’s withered stating of “love is pain that only a fool would wanna know”. The chorus’s pattering vocal lines overflow into each other, vicariously delivering the despair the brothers convey. The lead guitar has the same impassioned effect, it’s twanging and sharp notes sending jolts through every synapse.

On their third, The Lemon Twigs show honesty and unwavering tenderness with their lyrical magic, summarizing love’s brutal incision with artistry. “Hog” does so with impeccable truth and beauty: “You once were an angel full of glitter, now of shit”, not masking the aftermath of conflict with any glamour. Its chorus delivers yet more sheer sentimentality and angered words, where D’Addario’s vocal rises theatrically with “You were my confidante”, and the poetic elixir of “My dreams they turn to nightmares, the water into mud/The bed is soaked with blood”.

The varied, undulating synaesthesia of “Why do Lovers Own Each Other?” offers a creative concoction equal in inventiveness to “Haroomata”, from The Lemon Twigs’ debut. Here, a theremin-like synth line follows the almost spoken word prophesising, leading to a soulful piano led section with a brisk ‘do-doo’ section. The transitions apparent here exhibit the plethora of textures the band explore with Songs For The General Public.

Delightfully punky “Leather Together”, is another new stylistic rendezvous of simple, thrashing but ultimately melodic guitars and brash percussion, sounding like a discombobulating 70s’ punk band. The track’s shrewdly optimistic chorus of “We can be leather together/If we try/If we try”, acts as the last hopeful salve before final track “Ashamed” plunges into deeply saddening, striking depths.

This sees Michael D’addario singing the beautifully frail “So since there’s no reason to survive/A person should do nothing”, an achingly played acoustic guitar the only accoutrement for the most part. The album closes via an oceanic, discordant envelope of guitar feedback, a fitting parry to the brothers’ wails of acrimony, hurt and confusion.

The D’addario brothers performed the majority of the album’s instrumentation, including Michael playing Wurlitzer, tambourine, bells and Brian playing parts on MiniMoog, Prophet, ARP Quartet, Ebow, besides them both playing cello, guitar, bass, drums and piano across the LP. “Hog” also features a bewitching flute part from Michael Alampi, making the track an even more assured highlight. The brothers wrote, produced and recorded the album alongside long-time co-producer Jonathon Rado, at their Long Island home studio, Sonora Studios in Los Angeles and New York City’s Electric Lady.

SFTGP is a textural, tonal, and creative feat of Olympian levels for their third LP; a stone’s throw ahead of their hugely inventive debut, even.

Released on August 21st on 4AD, pre-order here to get the record on CD, limited translucent red vinyl (indie stores and 4AD Store only) and standard black vinyl. The first 200 vinyl pre-orders made through the 4AD Store will receive a limited-edition print signed by the brothers.

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  1. George Sato
    August 14, 2020

    do you really mean 0 as a score for this album? Sounds like a rave, but that score is very misleading. You should correct that!

    • August 15, 2020

      Hi George, thank you for spotting! Apologies, no, it’s glitch with the publishing platform which means scoring vanishes with the slightest in-text amend. Suitably recalibrated now!

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