THE LEMON TWIGS
Songs For The General Public (4AD/Remote Control)
Two albums in, The D’Addario brothers of The Lemon Twigs had always looked like the good time wanting to be had by all. It certainly looked like they were having a good time. The best time.
Reckless and bratty, talented and highly enthusiastic, they had huffed on the table glue of the 1970s and were hell bent on playing it out as if it were all new. Glam stomp? Power drive pop?
Layers of guitars? Piano dragged from the pub’s backroom to the front of the stage? Harmonies and big hooks and sweet vocals and then super high vocals and then all the vocals? Cheese?
Yes. All of the above. With gusto.
I remained unconvinced. It was never evident that they had the songcraft to rise above the enthusiastic homage, the extra ingredient to even make them this generation’s Redd Kross or a chunkier sounding The Feeling, let alone touch the hem of someone like Fountains Of Wayne.
On their third album, the brothers from Long Island – Brian and Michael – make several big steps to earning more than bragging rights to the satin pants and denim jacket drawers. They’re still scattershot when it comes to styles (which is fine, and part of their appeal) but more consistent with quality.
In fact, the peak moments here are genuinely good and not just fun.
Take The One: a Raspberries power pop melody with ELO strings, a raspy lead voice and a clean none-more-‘70s guitar solo, and it’s come in, jumped about and gone in under two-and-a-half minutes. Or Live In Favor Of Tomorrow, which mixes early ‘70s jangle and summer of love stacked voices, and Only A Fool, that tricks up its structure and feels like the product of clever kids at arts school, relocating the Americans across the Atlantic - on a bill with Wizard, pre-split 10cc and Pilot maybe.
There’s also No One Holds You (Closer Than The One You Haven’t Met) which takes most of its cues from Wings, and the rest from The Feeling: verses that climb up at the end; a chorus which first appears as bounce and returns as shimmer; a synth solo that plays so simply it’s almost a self-parody; and a sense that even clumsy Year 10 boys could dance a bit to this.
Even the songs that shouldn’t – and probably won’t – last, feel at least like there’s a bit more than chutzpah to carry them. Hog gets to borderline Jim Steinman histrionics midway through a song that mostly feels like languid Suede; Fight gets too fruity in the backing vocals but I can still see it being sung on Top Of The Pops by a former ‘60s teen idol having one more go at career resurrections; and Moon is a bar band’s attempt at late ‘70s Springsteen (or maybe even Meat Loaf doing Springsteen again), complete with working man’s struggle, harmonica and power-soul backing vocals.
Less successful are Leather Together, a juiced up ‘50s rocker, and Somebody Loving You, putting early 10cc doo wop-isms over squelchy synth sounds, both of which struggle to rise above adequate, and the florid Dylan-meets-School’s Out melange of Hell On Wheels. Meanwhile the album’s closing “vulnerable” ballad, Ashamed, which sits between The Kinks and a crumbling Alex Chilton outtake, just isn’t believable.
Still, the better moments, the clear improvements on their earlier records, suggest maybe Lemon Twigs might live up to this album’s title and move from fodder for retro-stylists and trainspotters, to members of the general public soon.