The Lemon Twigs are certainly entertaining, they are young and fun, they jump and bounce on stage like uncontrolled rabbits and are able to deliver a collection of songs that make you dream about the good old times of pop. Forget about electronica and hip hop or whatever kids are into these days, the D’Addario brothers are here to have fun with your favorite Beatles-Beach-Boys-Kinks memories and beyond, they are retro and dynamite, their music hero is not Chance the Rapper but Todd Rundgren, and they love full-voiced harmonies with rock guitars as kids of their age love rap verses over electro beats.
Brian and Michael D’Addario, aka The Lemon Twigs, have sold out two shows at the Teragram Ballroom, and I had the chance to see them last night, where they played in front of a diverse crowd of people of all ages. This is the appeal of the Twigs, they are young (Brian is 20 and Michael is only 18) and if their teenager fan base is solid, they may also please dad and mum.
Two bands opened the show, Fatal Jamz and Cut Worms, which were two interesting acts for different reasons. Fatal Jamz, fronted by charismatic Marion Belle, had wrapped their pop with dark tones and a lot of glam. They have released an album, ‘Coverboy’ on Lolipop Records earlier this year, and they played a few of their dark dance floors all impregnated of 70s passionate glam and glitter. There was an obvious retro vibe coming from Belle’s high platform heels and Bowie-esque emotional howls, as he seemed to live the dream, especially during a hooky song entitled ‘JPG’ (‘Jean Paul Gaultier’) with outbursts of sexy moves and plenty of fatal singer accents. But when I thought that more stage antics should be coming, Belle and his guitarist made an intertwined acrobatic move that I still have a hard time to comprehend, without missing a note or one of his Smiths-like emo vibratos.
Listening for the first time to Cut Worms‘ music was like sliding into a warm and familiar place with parts so delicate and emotional that I was in awe during his entire set. If frontman Max Clarke started alone on guitar, he was soon joined by a full band to play songs from his EP, ‘Alien Sunset’, which was just released on Jagjaguwar. It’s actually difficult to exactly pinpoint why I got a sort of Harry Nilsson vibe, but his melancholic country was oscillating between moments of great familiarity and nostalgic lonely cowboy songs – the Everly Brothers comparison has regularly come up in reviews and I suddenly understand why. His set was just plain beautiful, putting us in a comforting place, tender and soothing with an open vulnerability which seems so rare these days.
The Lemon Twigs don’t act like rock stars, in fact they are so laid back on stage that you may think that have been under the spotlights their entire short life. They actually were child actors and they didn’t appear to be surprised by the acclamations usually reserved for rock stars, as they started right away with ‘I Wanna Prove to You’, a song which sounded like the new immature child of Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney.
During the first half of the show, Brian was fronting the band on guitar with Michael on drums and the Twigs’ music was all about fervent vocal harmonies, the type of tunes that people can sing along at the top of their lungs, and many people in the crowd did. The brothers sure have inventive songs, which often take unexpected and chaotic detours into rock guitars or goofy circus-like outbursts (‘Haroomata’). Their father Ronnie D’Addario, an accomplished songwriter in the ’70s and ’80s, certainly rubbed off his love for the Beatles on them because you could hear the Fab Fours at each one of the bright harmonies, during the upbeat ‘Why Didn’t You Say That?’, or the emotional ‘Beautiful’, two songs of their new EP, ‘Brothers of Destruction’, released after their critically acclaimed ‘Do Hollywood’ produced by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado. The closeness is so striking you sometimes have to pinch yourself and wonder, are these kids for real? Are they just the last-in-date band to pastiche the Beatles or are they legit? One thing is certain, they have a great knack for melodies, and if you swear you have heard this before, the song reveals itself to be completely original, while the inventive instrumental parts, the guitar solos, and Brian’s emotive high falsetto, which often seemed to belong to another era, were speaking to the crowd with a rare fervor.
‘We are going to play our hit’, Brian said before the beloved power-pop anthem ‘These Words’, which made Danny Ayala shine on keyboard. I was so taken back during the full-harmonies of ‘How Lucky Am I?’ that I was wondering why people weren’t taking their cigarette lighters out as if it were 1978.
When the brothers switched places, with Brian on drums and Michael on guitar, the show took a much more rock ‘n’ roll attitude, Michael is a jumper and a crazy dude, goofing around with his guitar and leaping high, so high you couldn’t believe it. Watching him was defying gravity, and at this moment, the harmonies almost disappeared for a wild and chaotic party of distorted rock guitars. It was as if the helter-skelter second part, fueled by Michael D’Addario’s untamed energy, was following a more carefully rehearsed Broadway first act.
And may be this is why the brothers’ music makes the unanimity – Elton Jones, Questlove and Alice Cooper love them – they deliver a very entertaining and diverse show, with the energy of decades of rock ‘n’ roll and a versatility beyond their young age. Their set was packed with tuneful songs – have you listened to ‘These Words’, ‘As Long as We Are Together’? – with hooks so big that they would materialize in the air at each one of Michael’s high kicks. Their last song,‘The Queen of My School’, which will probably be featured on their next album, was a complexly structured glam rock extravaganza, with a tendency to loose its melody in guitar distortion and pounding drums. But it was another fun patchwork of rock ‘n’ roll, another amalgam of their parents’ vinyl collection that the bothers were able to regurgitate with brio.
I Wanna Prove to You
Why Didn’t You Say That?
You Can’t Talk to the Dude (Jonathan Richman cover)
How Lucky Am I ?
As Long as We Are Together
Spirit Without a Name
The Queen of My School
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