Album Review: The Lemon Twigs – Songs For The General Public

[4AD; 2020]

Like many artists alive and (barely) surviving in this weird programming error that is 2020, The Lemon Twigs opted to delay the release of their new LP Songs For The General Public, which was initially scheduled to see the light of day in early May. But, if this manoeuvre derived from the assumption we’d be back to full touring by fall (thus allowing musicians proper live promotion of new material), it might now ring as a tad pointless as we increasingly come to terms with the fact that predicting when our dear live shows will return from the war involves just about the same amount of guessing that comes with buying the winning lottery ticket.

On their debut album Do Hollywood and the Brothers Of Destruction EP, the D’Addario brothers benefitted from a lack of over-indulgence, but their last album, 2018’s Go To School, deviated by delivering a full concept album in the style of Tommy or SF Sorrow. Their third LP, Songs For The General Public, returns to that delicious form of unpretentiously-yet-expertly spitting out single after single in what cynics might consider too easy-listening to be taken seriously – but the general public (as the LP’s title puts it) promptly recognises as their own.

Opening with glittery pop anthem “Hell On Wheels”, Songs For The General Public follows the grand sonic tradition the D’Addario brothers have made us accustomed to. It offers just the right amount of mid-70s throwback, ranging from early-Ronnie Wood Stones to Todd Rundgren and Honky Château-era Elton John, and sounds like it could simultaneously fit both full stadium mood and your best friend’s chill-out basement.

Always grandiose and intimate at the same time, The Lemon Twigs have managed to perfect not only an uncanny reprise of FM rock (duly aided by producer and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Jonathan Rado), but also the type of excitement it provoked. Illusions of a simpler life come to the forefront as tunes like “No One Holds You”, “Moon”, or first single “The One” toy with our notions of time and place by fomenting a dangerous type of escapist nostalgia. “Hog” and “Why Do Lovers Own Each Other?” compete for most sickly sweet song of the summer, while closer “Ashamed” unashamedly borrows from John Denver’s “Country Roads” – only to completely deviate from it the second you realise the reference.

Yet the most curious thing about Songs For The General Public in particular – and the D’Addario universe in general – is that permanent feeling of familiarity; that, despite instantly pushing us to immediate categorisation or naive comparison, they never allow the labels to entirely stick. After all, putting The Lemon Twigs in a hermetic genre box is an impossible task.

Genius isn’t necessarily a matter of age, but it will never cease to amaze that Do Hollywood was recorded when they were 15 and 17 years old, and that Songs For The General Public is their first LP released after having both reached legal drinking age in the US. In times when the slightest hope for the future seems to be a rare commodity, Songs For The General Public plays a decent-sized part in a much-needed reminder of why we shouldn’t give up on humanity just yet.