Music Reviews
Songs for the General Public

The Lemon Twigs Songs for the General Public

(4AD) Buy it from Insound Rating - 5/10

Have you ever heard a song and immediately knew it was perfect? That’s how I felt when I heard The One by The Lemon Twigs, a flashy, 70s-esque pop-rock tune with the bombast of Queen, the brevity of early Beatles, and the explosive energy of the Ramones. As multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Brian D'Addario sings “You love someone when their heart is hurting but they could never be the one” on the chorus, the track’s guitars build and build as if they’re getting closer and closer to reaching sheer nirvana. The production is frenzied and crisp, which helps every harmony pop with aggression and a wailing guitar solo that wraps things up with a bang. Coming in at two minutes and twenty-seven seconds, it’s the ideal song of the summer.

The One is the strongest track on The Lemon Twigs’ third album, Songs for the General Public, and it’s also one of the album’s few songs that transcend the polished, glam-rock mediocrity that the duo presents here. The D'Addario brothers present lots of half-formed, adequate ideas, from the theatrical ballad of Why Do Lovers Own Each Other? to the bluesy rager of Leather Together, but most of the experiments fall flat. While there are moments—take the chorus on the trashy bar rock of Flight, which is incredible once it comes crashing through—the album’s appealing qualities are few and far between. More than anything, it all feels average and forgettable, which is the opposite of what a glam-rock album should be.

Unfortunately, the album mostly consists of mid-tempo songs with sonic textures stolen straight from 1970s FM radio. The aggressive harmonies on Somebody Loving You recall Breakfast in American without the sharpness of Supertramp, where fluttering synths and a jagged harpsichord turn a fluffy song into something vaguely memorable. The off-putting Only a Fool is so downtrodden lyrically that it ruins the charm of their cheesy backing vocals. The opener Hell On Wheels has a title dangerously close to a Paul McCartney & Wings classic, but sounds more like The Lemon Twigs’ modern collaborators, Foxygen. 

But the heart of this album comes with its extensive stylizations, from the orchestrations to the harmonies to the horn arrangements. It’s both where the album succeeds the most, particularly if you pair killer harmonies to a great chorus, but it’s also how the album fails the hardest. The album’s final single, No One Holds You (Closer Than You Haven’t Met), is a clever depiction of fantasy vs. reality, but the song truly succeeds because of the song’s thumping rhythm section and goofy modular-sounding synths throughout. The same could be said for the electric chorus of Moon, which utilizes angular 70s keys to make the song’s hook unforgettable.

The problem comes with the excessive backing vocals on the opener, or the slow and exhausting build of Ashamed. If the latter is supposed to sound like a post-party haze, as one “[throws] up all of that cognac,” it only feels like a messy album closer where the least engaging parts of The Lemon Twigs show up. While there’s moments of excellence overall, the majority of Songs for the General Public feels like a self-aggrandizing duo getting high on their own supply.