Many artists claim that you have your whole life to create your first album. Many of the times this is true, however, there are some exceptions to this persistent rule. In the case of Michael and Brian D’Addario, going against the grain has always been normal to them. Commonly known as The Lemon Twigs, the New York brothers created a project full of pure lunacy and genuine emotional sentiments. This project, Go to School, happens to be the duo’s second album, but acts as an introduction into each of their exclusive minds.
The script they write is one of the more zany of this year in music, especially within the indie rock landscape. The story follows an adopted chimpanzee named Shane, going through the different facets of adolescence, and how certain situations bring about spontaneous emotion. You have to listen to this to believe it. Despite it’s off-beat concept, the D’Addario brothers somehow make this risky adventure work, mainly because of their theatrical tone, and off-the-wall personality.
On the surface level, the songwriting may seem too nutty to even put into words, but if you actually delve into the message behind the curtains, then you’ll probably find something worth discussing. The New Yorkers almost live through this chimp as if they went through the same grievances he does. Bullying, finding true love, and deciphering your real origin are all relatable themes, and the brothers sing about them in a mature, yet satirical tone.
They start the story off with a heartbreaking tale about a woman named Carol going through a miscarriage on the very ironic “Never in My Arms, Always in my Heart.” The sound is very Beatles-esque (which is kind the case for a majority of this record), and the duo synchronizes perfectly in a very 90s alt-rock way. In fact, the first third of this record mainly comprises of pure rock (i.e.”Rock Dreams”), before transitioning into a more orchestral style (i.e. “The Fire”).
Their grasp of different sounds and inspirations are pretty transparent throughout. Nothing is really abstractly congregated, especially lyrically. Whether it be the showy “Student Becomes the Teacher” or somber but practical “Lonely,” the brothers love to be straightforward with their audiences. Even without hearing an interview from them, fans should still understand what they are trying to say just based off of the music.
Where the innovative concept really starts to falter a bit is when both Michael and Brian become too scatter-brained or confusing. Because they have so many artistic influences, there are moments on Go to School that feel unnecessarily over-stuffed with different plot points. Much like a movie that could be better-edited, the Twigs latest effort needed a little fat-trimming. For example, “Wonderin’ Ways” becomes more of an ode to the Beach Boys’ “You Still Believe in Me,” rather than a helpful storyline to the album. The lyrics are genuine enough to get by however, (“But I can love you/What I think of you/Won’t change my wonderin’ ways”) as the idea of Shane loving this girl for who she is plays nicely into this whole notion of being who you are. While there are a few other moments like this on the record, most notably the very empty title track “Go to School,” Michael and Brian keep their ideas focused and consistent for the most part.
As mentioned before, the New York natives most likely created this project as a way to show their own views of the world, and how certain things in their adolescence affected their livelihood. “Small Victories” is a light alt-pop tune built with thoughts on where we are as a society (“I understand demand/And know their’s no guarantees/But we’ve built a world full of small victories”). There’s almost two parts to this song, where Shane acts delusional to what’s going on around him within each of the verses, and then comes to certain conclusions by the chorus.
When Brian takes the production reigns, this album is at its best. On “The Bully,” the marching band instrumentation takes a Beatles sound from the late 60s, and elevates it to a whole other level, thereby increasing the impact further. In fact, the middle portion of this album is the strongest. “Lonely” is the most empathetic and relatable, and really hits hard with the emptiness some may feel in life, mainly when Michael croons in the outro, “when you feel like making love.”
The final third of Go to School is mostly laid-back and piano-driven, especially the very grandiose “Heart of a Home (The Woods)”. There’s something nostalgic and cinematic about the subtly in this track, and I almost wish it was used as the finale. It reminds me a lot of Father John Misty and his God’s Favorite Customer from earlier this year.
At its peak, Go to School featured some of the most forward-thinking ideas of the year within the alternative landscape. Which is why some of the more head-scratching areas were really frustrating (specifically the tracks where their minds seemed to wander off). Nonetheless, this album is definitely a sign of great things to come for the New York brothers.