Personnel: Brian D'Addario (vocals, guitar, violin, cello, trumpet, piano, keyboards, drums); Michael D'Addario (vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards, drums, percussion).
Photographer: Autumn de Wilde.
The D'Addario brothers, Michael and Brian, must have grown up on a steady diet of oddball singer/songwriters and weird '70s pop, absorbing it like it was candy until they were able to create their own strange and wonderful version that merrily blended the two styles until they became one crazy one. They started their group, the Lemon Twigs, when they were teens and caught the ear of someone at 4AD, who decided the public was ready for two flamboyantly dressed prodigies who thought the idea of Sparks playing Nilsson songs or Todd Rundgren covering the Randy Newman songbook was a good idea. Actually, it turns out to be a great idea and their debut album, Do Hollywood, is the sound of a couple young guys (plus very sympathetic producer Jonathan Rado of Foxygen) letting it all hang out over the course or ten surprising, thrilling, infuriating, instantly memorable songs. The brothers share all the musical and vocal duties to the point where it feels like the work of one bedroom-bound space case intent on defying expectations at every turn. Within the course of one song (take "As Long as We're Together" as an example), one can find soul-baring lyrics, glass-cracking falsettos, uplifting choruses, rinky-dink synths, left-field tempo changes, unexpected instruments, and simply strummed acoustic guitars. Add in some AOR-ready guitar soloing and production choices that sound selected at random from a list of so-bad-that-they're-good ideas, and one has a basic idea of what might be found on Do Hollywood. It's both breathtakingly refreshing that the brothers don't play anything straight and a puzzling pain in the neck when they do something wacky that they might not have needed to do. Some of the tracks are so nice and pretty that it's wrenching when they throw in a sped-up circus marching band or a proggy synth diversion. Then again, how many more records overloaded with earnest singer/songwriter tropes can the world take before it drowns in a flood of grey-tinted introspective diary entries? No worries of that here; these guys are too nuts to ever be boring or average. At their best, they are capable of creating songs that take off like jet planes at dusk ("Hi+Lo"), strut wobbly like Paul Williams on a bender ("I Wanna Prove to You"), and hit the perfect spot between heartbreakingly sweet and just plain odd. The record's best tune, "Baby, Baby," is one of these and it sounds like a cross between the Muppets and vintage Flaming Lips. The few moments on the record when the brothers push it a bit too far, like the annoyingly quirky "Those Days Is Comin' Soon," are outweighed by those when they sound like the best thing to come along since the bands they so clearly idolize. It may only be their debut, but the boys of the Lemon Twigs sound like they've got it all figured out. ~ Tim Sendra