The Lemon Twigs Do Hollywood
With a wee bit of help from some very lucky friends, The Lemon Twigs Do Hollywood. It’s hard to know where to begin with this record. So I’ll begin at the end. I recommend all twelve inches of this record.
“Do Hollywood” was released in 2016 which means it was released about 46 years after the last record I reviewed (Grand Funk “Live Album”). According to tumblr, it took nearly two years for me to get around to reviewing another record in any substantive way. My Instagram (@supertodd5000) grunts and groans hardly count. Why so long since my last review? The best answer is I’m lazy. The second best answer is that I’ve been ghostwriting my own unauthorized autobiography. But that information stands in the way of the Lemon Twigs Do Hollywood record review. So let’s get on with it.
Intimidating. Menacing. Emasculating. These are three of the feelings washing over me as I listen to the last few bits of “A Great Snake.” Quite possibly the best new song I’ve heard in 2 years. Why these strange feelings? Because I’m told the D’Addario brothers (Michael and Brian) are 17 and 19 years old, respectively. Or is it the other way around? I’m not sure which is which and I suspect they’ve forgotten as well. The point is they’ve accomplished more in six months than I have in twenty five years. Put another way, I could be their great great great grandfather.
The liner notes claim they can play every instrument known in the Western Hemisphere and I believe it. At the insistence of local celebrity writer and social media poet Alan Spindle, I paid ten dollars to see them perform an outrageous set of rock and roll at Chicago’s Empty Bottle a couple weeks ago. The D’Addario brothers traded between drums, guitars and keyboards in a way that seems comical on paper but works perfectly when you’re standing so close you can smell them before you see them.
The music. At first I was having fun conjuring all the influences and references in the grooves of this record. Brill Building writers meet Peter Gabriel on a boat slowly ferrying across the Mersey with a Beatle, Phil Spector, Todd Rundgren, two Eric Carmens and Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem playing live while the cast of Under The Rainbow scampers about.
Songs can (and do) include moments of doo-wop, 1950s R&B, multiple movements (think Yes, early 70s Genesis) and the type of power pop riffs familiar to fans of Big Star, Raspberries and Dwight Twilley. At times I thought I was hearing an unreleased b-side from The Strokes. Or a Beck Hansen outtake. I even wondered if they were in The Monkees but quickly discounted that after doing the math.
There’s a great deal of studio knob-twiddling, button-pushing and orchestral frippery involved in this record, but I largely consider it an omnipresent gift. You get the sense they asked a studio engineer “what’s this button do?” and she said “try it.” And they did. Over and over and over. That’s not to say all that wrist-work takes a front seat while the energetic crunching guitars ride in the trunk. Not at all. It’s more like every bit of this music rides on the roof of a 1970 El Camino as it roars toward the edge of a cliff.
Every time I’d get the sense that the aural sculpture they were crafting was getting a bit ponderous, the noises would disappear only to reappear five or six minutes later disguised cleverly as another bleep, blip or bloop. When things seemed too pompous they’d transition into an acoustic moment descending into a dirge and coming out of a side-hatch into a Partridge Family jangle before jumping into the saddle of a full frontal riff.
Strangely, it all seems to make sense. And it’s fun. And fresh. Sure, it’s easy to quibble with this thing or that because it reminds you of something you’ve heard before. Keep in mind, somebody heard Elvis’ first single and said he ripped off Big Mama Thornton or Ernest Tubb. People hearing Led Zeppelin for the first time knew they’d worn out some Robert Johnson records before recording their first long-player. A guy once told me he was glad the Black Crowes sounded like the Rolling Stones because The Stones didn’t sound like The Stones anymore. And on an on it goes.
The Lemon Twigs Do Hollywood. And then some.
I think you should buy this record at your local record shop or forever live in a past that has no future. And vice versa.