The Lemon Twigs just released what might end up being my favorite album of 2018.
My introduction to The Lemon Twigs was late night television and I was quite frankly blown away. This, I am sure, is why their full length debut, "Do Hollywood" was a disappointment to me. The live performances, both on the tube and YouTube, were outstanding. These D'Addario kids had talent oozing out of their pores, they were confident and they served it up like musicians who had been doing it their whole lives, and yet their average age is 20. "Do Hollywood," on the other hand, came off as too many ideas with little focus and weak production.
Since then, the hype has been non-stop, with relentless comparisons to all my musical heroes, from Todd Rundgren and David Bowie to Nilsson, Cheap Trick, Big Star and back again. And now, a concept album about a couple who cannot have children, so they adopt a chimpanzee named Shane, who goes to school, gets bullied, commits arson and kills 100 people in a fire. As Mojo magazine pointed out, at least it makes more sense than "Tommy."
The Lemon Twigs were on the verge of becoming more trouble to me than they were worth. By now, I was too overwhelmed to care. What I wanted was a new record by a new band with influences right in my wheelhouse, you know, like a perfect Saturday, record shopping in Asbury Park. (See Part One.) Instead, I was getting two smug kids, in over their heads, delivering some unlistenable double album about a monkey. The advance press wasn't helping. Some loved it. Some hated it. Best laid plans, you know...I no longer cared about The Lemon Twigs, and I already had tickets to see them live.
The album arrived on Friday in a beautiful gatefold package. I took a deep breath and listened once, cleansed the palate with that recent unreleased Coltrane album, took a few more deep breaths and listened a second time.
The Lemon Twigs Go To School is triumphant!
The story/book does not matter. Forget about chimp. Okay! Forget about the chimp, damnit!
If you have taken anything from Burning Wood in ten years, it's that I've been moaning all this time about new artists and their inability to write songs and create memorable records. So who would I be now if I didn't embrace work as ambitious as "The Lemon Twigs Go To School?"
Not all of the 60 minutes works, but most of it works like a charm. If I told you I discovered an unreleased Big Star tune and played you "Queen Of My School," you'd be gobsmacked. If I told you that Todd Rundgren hasn't sounded more Rundgren-y since "Something/Anything?" than he does on "Never Know," you'd agree, assuming you like Todd in the first place. Even the ballad, "Lonely" would have fit perfectly on "A Wizard/A True Star."
"Go To School" is a masterwork, maybe too ambitious for those of you who need something as raw as the Stooges, as basic as early Stones or as primitive as the Velvet Underground. But records like "Ziggy Stardust," "Tommy," and "S.F. Sorrow" did not come out of the womb legendary. Do I think "The Lemon Twigs Go To School" is destined for legendary status? No. I am not that crazy. But, if you claim to love music, this record should not be dismissed. If you claim to love the classic rock of the 70's, the Raspberries, The Kinks, The E Street Band or 10cc, all with carefully orchestrated arrangements, vocals and musicianship, than a misguided story line should not get in the way of one of the most musical albums I have heard in years. There is a lot to love here and it is worth your time.