On 2016’s ‘Do Hollywood’, Long Island brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario, known as The Lemon Twigs, showed glimpses of theatrical storytelling, channelling late ‘60s and ‘70s album rock in spurts, but now, with ‘Go To School’, the duo have gone full force, giving us 2018’s great rock opera.
‘Go To School’ is a tale of the tailless, a chimp named Shane, raised by a human couple, compensating for the loss of their own baby. The musical explores the crushed rock n roll goals of the mother (‘Rock Dreams’), and the highs, but mostly lows of Shane’s school life, from being bullied (‘The Bully’), to falling for the most popular girl in school (‘The Queen of My School’), to being driven to his limit as an outcast, burning down the school (‘The Fire’).
While it might seem odd that the primary primate, a chimp, has been given very human-like situations and problems in the opera’s narrative, the story at least ends up resonating, fully grasping the confusion that comes with being young, while pushing and twisting said confusion, turning it up to eleven in the process (exaggerated, not everyone is likely to burn down a school). Maybe a chimp would end up getting picked on when congregating around human children, maybe the chimp is the perfect representation of anyone ultimately labelled as ‘different’.
There’s a huge throwback appeal to ‘Go To School’. Stylistically and thematically, it’s hard to say whether or not the D’Addario Brothers are definitely channelling a love of musical theatre, but at the very least, they’re channelling the elements of musical theatre encompassed in rock operas of old, notably The Who’s ‘Tommy’ and Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’. There’s ‘Born Wrong/Heart Song’, which sees the protagonist bellow out his feelings in monologue form, amidst grandiose string sections and crescendo-driven rhythms, and ‘Lonely’, which serves as the character’s personal, monster ballad – the tune that, if The Lemon Twigs were a little more well-known, would go down as instantly recognisable without people having to know the record, much like ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen.
While the musical theatre emphasis is impressive, ‘Go To School’ is still very much so a rock album, one that’ll appeal to classic rock heads the most. ‘The Lesson’ combines orchestra and country in a way that a few tracks from Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’ do, ‘This Is My Tree’ has a strong Rolling Stones vibe – especially when you compare the song’s titular phrase with ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’, and hey, Todd Rundgren even appears as the voice of the father character, how about that?
The musical arrangements are constantly intriguing. The Lemon Twigs, while affectionate towards their rock influences, are not content with being a basic rock band at all, and the vast selection of instruments is made that bit more impressive by the fact that the duo recorded the album in their parents’ basement.
Ridiculous in concept, somehow ‘Go To School’ is endearing throughout, poignant, impassioned, and perhaps would’ve been a smash if the D’Addario Brothers were born a few decades earlier.
‘Go To School’ is out now via 4AD