In 2018, brothers Michael and Brian D’Addario had a pretty convincing case for being the next great alternative act. Their album Go To School is a bohemian coming-of-age tale told through the perspective of a chimpanzee. Ripe for a Broadway setting, The Lemon Twigs evidently discovered a prolific niche in their music, tackling adolescent narratives of bullying, finding oneself, and observing the early stages of true love with impressive conviction.
The duo explored each theme with a theatrical twist, breathing life into its overall familiarity. Certain production syncopates whenever each brother wants to signify a major point (almost like an exclamation mark), while numerous scenes carry humanistic qualities without taking life too seriously (as evidenced by its framing).
By contrast, Songs For the General Public feels like one of those debut mixtapes that can’t seem to extend beyond obvious influences. The Twigs habitually live by their third album’s cognizant title, never accomplishing anything outside of nostalgia-driven homogeneity. The brothers essentially play caricatures of a specific era, mimicking the performative extravagance of Elton John, the monumental balladry of Bruce Springsteen, and the brazen haughtiness of Liam Gallagher.
Here lies their biggest achilles heel. Even with the eccentricities on Go To School, the vocal performances always felt less distinct and wholly reminiscent of legendary acts. Without that same quirky storytelling, Songs For the General Public just feels like a minuscule portrait with little gradation. The power-rock production struts and surges in conventional Point A to Point B format thanks to predictable structural tropes and radio-ready listlessness.
The conciseness of “Hell On Wheels” sounds like a pastiche from different elements of Queen, Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan. “Fight’s” subtle mischievousness is juxtaposed by a soft rock backbone as each brother oscillates between the sinister and the mundane (I need you, Just like I need a hole in the head/Listen up/Hear me out, I’m glad your mom is dead/Baby, why?”). Such lyrics present emotional freedom for The Twigs, but when they walk a fine line between campy and pragmatic, it becomes difficult to pinpoint their artistic direction.
On “The One,” the brothers attempt to analyze love’s hollowness in Gallagher’s tenor-like belligerence. Aside from its catchy songwriting though, the entire track results in a comfortable shrug. The cynical overtures are less frivolous and ironic-the topics, less interesting.
Despite Go To School’s classical forays into tragedy and depression, Songs For the General Public somehow presents itself as more cynical and contemplative. Instead of seeing love as a singular bond between two or more people who generally enjoy each other’s presence, the Twigs can’t seem to fathom why anyone would dedicate their time to a useless feeling (“Why Do Lovers Own Each Other?”). “No One Holds You Closer (Than The One You Haven’t Met)” trades personable connection for imaginative disassociation.
I suppose these ideas could be fascinating if not for parochial ambitions. The 1970s rock aesthetic leaves little in the way of imagination. The Twigs instead force listeners to ride inside this time machine without much of a choice.
The album peaks on “Ashamed,” where the band spirals down this rabbit hole of relationship turmoil inside a barroom (and in their own minds). The characters are more lived in and the song’s internal harshness sounds more developed. It’s finally a moment where I feel like I’m actually listening to The Lemon Twigs-two brothers who know how to levitate their abnormalities without appealing to the masses. Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn’t follow this same path of singularity.