Nick Bollinger considers the seventies-centric pop of teenage duo The Lemon Twigs.
The first time I heard this album I had the sensation that a bunch of records I’d grown up with had been chucked into a blender, switched to high speed, and the contents were now being spattered all over the room.
The band is The Lemon Twigs - two teenage brothers from Long Island, brought up on a diet of mostly 60s and 70s pop, fed to them by their father, a singer-songwriter who came closest to realising his own aspirations when one of his tunes was nearly recorded by The Carpenters. And if nothing else, this debut album shows the brothers digested every note their father fed them.
Just seventeen and nineteen respectively, Michael and Brian D’Addario are hothouse musicians. Between them they play keyboards, guitars, drums and orchestral instruments as well as sing, all of which they do very well. They also write songs, with strong ear-worming melodies. But simple pop songs these aren’t; more like a series of hooks fashioned into elaborate, almost symphonic constructions, with unexpected changes in time and tempo, piano ballad one moment and runaway circus the next.
The tunes are often Beatle-or-Brian Wilson-esque, but there’s a restlessness about the way they put a song together, as though to consider any single idea for more than ten seconds would lead to terminal boredom.
If their musical hyperactivity is one indicator of their youth, another is their preoccupation with young love. Not that their lyrics are gauche or naïve; like everything about the record, these are almost-precociously well-crafted. But the D’Addarios make no pretence at being worldly wise when it comes to the ways of love, and it gives this record a yearning innocence that is rarely found in combination with such musical sophistication - in fact it might not have been so vividly realised since Brian Wilson was in his Pet Sounds prime.
Though the album is called Do Hollywood, the only part where I see the Lemon Twigs doing Hollywood is in the cover photos, taken on location in Los Angeles. In one shot you can see the Capitol Records tower – American home of the Beatles and Beach Boys – standing symbolically in the background. What the Lemon Twigs really do, though, isn’t Hollywood so much as the kind of studio-smart pop that flourished for a period in the post-Beatle 70s, with the likes of Todd Rundgren, Sparks, 10cc, even early Split Enz. If you’d played me this album and told me it was some newly unearthed relic from back then, I’d have little reason not to believe you. And weirdly, if you track down the album made in the 70s by their father Ronnie D’Addario – a genuine lost relic - The Lemon Twigs’ Do Hollywood starts to seem less like a retro pastiche, and more like the music they were simply born and raised to play.
Songs featured: I Wanna Prove To You, Haroomata, These Words, Those Days Is Comin’ Soon, How Lucky Am I?, As Long As We’re Together, Baby Baby, Hi + Lo.
The Lemon Twigs Do Hollywood is available on 4AD Records.