1981, Music

Mark of the Mole (1981) by The Residents

I read about The Residents as a teenager and thought their origin story was really cool and then later I fell in love with the cover of Third Reich ‘n’ Roll and so I thought I would get around to listening to a bunch of their records. Nearly two decades later this is the second album of theirs I’ve ever heard. Where does the time go?

Most of the fan reviews I’ve read or skimmed focus on the concept. I can’t say I’ve paid much attention to it. It seems like there’s some allegorical thing here, which is to their credit, but I’ve always been one to focus on the music first.
The music is catchier than I think some people who don’t know the Residents would think. Though it certainly varies in catchiness, the pieces are often suites made up of distinct melodies and individual pieces are catchy if you can get past the performances and the production.

This is a Residents album so there is a certain lo fi quality to both the performances and the recording. (Before it was cool.) This band often just uses some keyboards and some noises to create music and that’s true of many of these pieces. The vocals are rarely clean and usually run through some kind of effect. And, of course, there is the haze to the recording, something they also did on the one other album of theirs I’ve heard – everything sounds far away or in like it was recorded in a box. This is a deliberate choice, of course, but it’s probably the biggest reason why this band is such a cult band.

I don’t really know what to do with it. It’s undoubtedly ambitious but it’s also more similar to Third Reich ‘n’ Roll than I ever imagined. (Yes, that album is full of covers, but there are so many aesthetic similarities here.) This is the kind of music I was much more impressed by when I was younger – weird but nowhere near as weird as it makes itself out as. If only I’d gotten around to listening to this when I was, like, 22 or something. Ah well.


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