THE phrase ‘concept album’ immediately transports you back to the days of ‘70s prog rock.
However American band The Lemon Twigs’ second release, Go To School, is indeed a concept album. And the brothers who created it, Brian and Michael D’Addario, weren’t even born in the 70s or 80s for that matter.
Go To School is also a musical, based around Shane, a chimpanzee raised by human parents — one of whom is musical icon Todd Rundgren, the other their real life mother Susan Hall.
The album was written by Brian (21) and Michael (19) who also play most of the instruments on the record — guitar, bass, double bass, drums, cello, piano, organ, banjo, mandolin and percussion.
They also produced, mixed and engineered the record while Brian arranged and conducted the orchestrations.
It’s bold, it’s bombastic, and utterly fantastic.
Michael D’Addario says the idea to make a concept album came naturally.
“I think we were just lucky we had the energy to do a full musical at this juncture. It’s less work to do just songs that don’t relate, you know?”
Opening song, Never In My Arms, Always In My Heart, has a refrain rather reminiscent of a tune by fellow Hicksvillian, Billy Joel.
D’Addario says the reference was not intentional. “But you know, I just kind of sat there, and wrote all of the music for it a few years ago, but not any words. And that little bit at the end of the album, was originally part of the first song. It wasn’t attached to the recording but it was part of the music for the first song. You know, in the demo, it was all one song.”
The age on his passport and his hairstyle might suggest he’s a millennial, but Michael D’Addario’s musical heroes are all from his parents’ generation — he happily admits he’s never heard Post Malone.
There are obvious influences in their incredibly intricate and imaginative songs. From The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Todd Rundgren, Elton John, Big Star (drummer Jody Stephens appears on the track, Student Becomes The Teacher) and the pop rock acts from days gone by.
Todd Rundgren popped by their studio basement in Hicksville, New York, after a gig, to record his bits for the album.
And, like Rundgren, the lure of a big cheque from a major label never tempted them, preferring the creative freedom 4AD brings them.
The Lemon Twigs visited our shores in July last year, performing at Splendour In The Grass and a side show apiece in Sydney and Melbourne.
They had created a buzz even then, with positive reactions for their energetic live gigs, including heart-stopping high kicks galore. Even Ian “Molly” Meldrum checked them out at the packed John Curtin in Carlton.
It will be a very different band promoting the new album. Former touring members, Danny Ayala (keys), and Brian’s ex-girlfriend, Megan Zeankowski (bass), are out of the band, with three brand new members; Daryl Johns (bass), Tommaso Toddanio (keys) and Andres Valbuenas (drums), joining.
Older brother Brian was recently admitted to hospital in New York after suffering a bout of glandular fever, and a low platelet count.
“No need to worry”, Michael said. “He’s pretty good. We had kind of a small scare. We just didn’t know what it was. He had to get some tests and stuff. It looks good.”
Would the brothers like to see ‘Go To School’ end up on Broadway?
“I don’t think Broadway would have us. I mean, I’d like to do something, like a movie or a musical. I guess we’ll do the next record, and then if we have some time, we’ll do that.”
Go to School (4AD/Remote Control) out now