The Lemon Twigs give the ’60s their best shot
Christian Bunker | Monday, December 5, 2016
The Lemon Twigs were first recommended to me as sounding “exactly like the ’60s.” As an avid fan of the Zombies, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills and Nash, this was plenty to convince me to try out the New York-based rock band. However, as I listened to the album, I began to reflect on how distant the ’60s truly are in our era of continuous media consumption and evaluation; I feel guilty waiting until December to review an album that came out in mid-October. Of course, hordes of music enthusiasts with vinyl collections far larger than my own still Thom Yorke’s sentiment when he sings “I wish it was the ’60s … I wish I could be happy.” But for better or worse, the ’60s aren’t getting any closer. My own mother, who in my eyes embodies old music, was born after both the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel had broken up. Even Pitchfork hasn’t attempted to bring back the decade; though they have crafted lists of the best albums of the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and ’00s, they have neglected to do so for the almighty ’60s. I believe that this reflects an understanding that while those 10 years of immense musical progress is revered, that reverence may have put us out of touch with it.
This could explain why Lemon Twigs don’t really sound like the ’60s. Of course, they shouldn’t be faulted for this because it is impossible to sound like the ’60s nowadays. What the Lemon Twigs do sound like is a well-intentioned imitation of that era. Such a description that may sound like a put-down, but should actually be considered a compliment. The legacy of the ’60s has granted us great music over the course of the decades that followed. After all, early ditties of the ’70s, like Pink Floyd’s “Summer ‘68” and the Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves the Sun,” referenced the ’60s to great success, and other groups in British pop like Supertramp and Electric Light Orchestra continued doing so in the same fashion. Then came the Stone Roses and “Madchester,” another ’60s revival movement. The Flaming Lips carried the torch from there, and today we have Tame Impala (although they sold out their neo-psychedelic roots in their most recent album).
The Lemon Twigs’ “Do Hollywood” fits perfectly into this spectrum. In fact, it registers as the kind of album that could have preceded Tame Impala’s debut album “Innerspeaker.” It may feature less synths, less ambition, less John Lennon vocals — but “Do Hollywood” is composed of the same core ingredients as the modern psychedelic touchstone. For example, the opening of “Hi+Lo” sounds like the slowed down, drugged-out cousin of “Solitude is Bliss.” The soft guitar lines and softer singing of “A Great Snake” echoes Tame Impala’s “I Don’t Really Mind” as well.
More often, however, the slowness and conscious antiquatedness of the album sound nothing like Tame Impala’s high-end production. These instances, which include “I Wanna Prove to You,” “Those Days is Comin’ Soon,” and “These Words” are a common source of comparison to actual ’60s groups, such as the Beatles and Beach Boys. However, at no point do the Lemon Twigs manage to reach the heights reached by these predecessors. The energetic charm of “Good Vibrations” and “Penny Lane”; the melodic perfection of “God Only Knows” and “Here Comes the Sun”; and the power of “Hey Jude” and “Come Together” are all largely missing. Instead the Lemon Twigs sound like the less ambitious — or dare I say filler — tracks from each of these two groups. “As Long as We’re Together” channels “I’m Waiting for the Day” quite nicely, while the unusual instrumentation of “Baby, Baby” reflects “Pet Sounds.”
This is all well and good, but unfortunately “Do Hollywood” doesn’t offer anything that improves on these 50-year-old formulas. It’s certainly refreshing to hear music that goes back to a different time, but the Twigs lack the catchiness, and even the loudness, of the more successful members of the ’60s imitation genre. As a result, it simply lacks staying power. In the end, I fear that the Lemon Twigs music will fade away much sooner than the decade that inspired them.
Artist: The Lemon Twigs
Album: “Do Hollywood”
Tracks: “A Great Snake” “As Long as We’re Together”
If You Like: The Beatles, The Beach Boys