The Lemon Twigs – ‘Songs For The General Public’ review: a few good ideas, spread very thin

The D'Addario brothers may be indifferent to their early theatrical successes, but album three is pure musical theatre – for good and ill

It’s funny to think that Long Island brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario have dismissed their stints as Broadway kids and film stars. Both siblings felt indifferent to their early thespian successes, yet their music is inextricable from the theatrics of old. As The Lemon Twigs, the duo make knowingly pompous, revivalist power-pop carried by operatic harmonies, and their second album, 2018’s ‘Go To School’ (2018), was a rock opera concept album about an adopted chimp enrolled in human education, leaving little doubt that its creators were graduates of the theatre world.

If you weren’t convinced by by that record, the D’Addario’s follow-up will be a welcome listen. ‘Songs for the General Public’ continues the solid melodic songcraft of their debut proper, 2016’s ‘Do Hollywood’, and is flecked with surefire signs of their enormous potential. The brothers are their best when they swap extravagance for earnestness; thankfully, there are glimpses of that here.

On ‘Somebody Loving You’, a sickly sweet song-song delivery gives way to a huskier refrain, striking the right balance. At the start, a promiscuous lover ignores his partner (“Her heart remained with me while mine was in bed / With some other head”), only for the perspective to switch to the wronged lover at the song’s squalling chorus: “You can’t handle somebody loving you”. It’s a visceral listen buoyed by chunky baroque pop arrangements and harmonies that comes off like the D’Addarios engineered a cross between Queen and Supertramp and packed it off to theatre school.

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Meatloaf-style rock blitzer ‘Hell On Wheels’ is a call to arms for lost, hedonistic dreamers. On peppy glam rock stompers ‘No One Holds You Closer (Than The One You Haven’t Met)’ and ‘The One’, the brothers tap into a very real fear of discontentment (“I’ve heard the grass gets greener the further you go from the tomb you call your home”, they sing on the former).

‘Hog’, meanwhile, brashly depicts love turning to hate: “Who is this hog? / You once were an angel full of glitter, now of shit”. Closing song ‘Ashamed’ stands out as the most pared-back tune, with its country lilt, and continues the D’Addarios’ penchant for exploring weird subject matter, weaving a story about incestuous lovers.

The ideas in ‘Songs For The General Public’ are rich, creative and often funny, but its musical staying power is lacking. Aside from a few keepers – the addictive ‘60s jangle pop of ‘Live In Favour Of Tomorrow’, the ferocious ‘70s New York punk-inspired ode to vanity ‘Leather Together’ and the glam gusto of ‘The One’ and ‘No One Holds You Closer….’ it’s sadly a little slim pickings across its 12 tracks.

Details

Release date: August 21

Record label: 4AD

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