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The Lemon Twigs - Go To School (Album Review)

Thursday, 30 August 2018 Written by Liam Turner

Rock operas are a risky business. If you pull it off, maybe with your own ‘Tommy’ or ‘Quadrophenia’, you’re forever heralded as a genius. If you fail, and produce something as aimless as it is pointless, you’re marked for the rest of your career as something of an overblown bore. Well, the Lemon Twigs have accepted the challenge. And in true Twigs fashion, it’s completely and utterly bananas.

‘Go To School’ follows the story of Shane, an adopted chimp who believes he’s an human child and whose parents (played with apposite verve by Todd Rundgren and the D’Addario brothers’ mother) give him no reason to think otherwise before sending him off to school. To repeat: b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

Those familiar with the Lemon Twigs’ work won’t be surprised to find they’ve attempted a rock opera, and such a bizarre one at that. The brothers D’Addario are well versed in musicals, and it just seems the type of thing that the duo, who are known for combining erratic musical arrangements with extroverted sartorial choices, were bound to try eventually.

Sometimes it works. Lonely, for instance, with its plonking pianos and soaring strings, sounds like it’s been plucked from that point in a musical where the protagonist stands alone with nothing but a spotlight for company. When Michael sings “When I’m waiting for my mum with my friends, and they speak of their plans while I’m standing right there,” it’s hard not to feel the heartstrings being tugged slightly.

But in focusing on the bigger picture, they lose sight of the smaller parts. There’s no I Wanna Prove to You, from the band’s debut LP, for example, and no As Long As We’re Together. The whole thing also runs as a kind of medley of the best of ‘60s and ‘70s rock.

There are nods to everything from the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Stones, T-Rex, David Bowie, the Who, Queen, Led Zeppelin and Frank Zappa. While it’s easy to sit back in awe at the sheer breadth of the brothers’ musical knowledge and virtuosic abilities, it’s also really quite hard to to take it all in.

Nevertheless, the Lemon Twigs should be commended for attempting something so bold and daring here. They don’t quite nail it, but if you’re going to write a rock opera about a chimp who goes to school, you can’t really expect to have your banana and eat it.

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