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The Residents - Mark Of The Mole CD (album) cover

MARK OF THE MOLE

The Residents

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

2.93 | 35 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
2 stars The Mole Cycle wasn't the first project abandoned by THE RESIDENTS (remember the film "Vileness Fats"?), and it probably won't be the last. But it was certainly the boldest venture ever attempted by the celebrated Bay Area eyeballs: six total LPs and a lavish stage show charting the social/political clash of two imaginary cultures following an undefined ecological disaster, in outline sounding not unlike an operatic, avant-rock adaptation of John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath".

Only half the series was ever recorded (parts one, two and four), and in retrospect the lack of any resolution makes listening to the initial album a frustrating experience. Even worse, the musical ideas don't match the band's thematic ambitions. As eccentric as the album is (and no one expects The Residents to sound anything but wonderfully weird), it never breaks the unique mold they established a decade earlier on even more obscure (and far more successful) concept albums like "Not Available" and "Eskimo".

Maybe the demands of a convoluted narrative monopolized too much of the creative energy needed for the music itself. Or maybe the band was simply too enthralled by their new studio toys: digital samplers, and so forth (remember this was 1981). Gone was the amateur lo-fi appeal of their earliest efforts; the new album sounded more accomplished, more professional, and thanks to all that technology less interesting than any of their embryonic cut-and-splice audio tapes.

Only on the album's "Final Confrontation" (in the sub-chapter titled "Driving the Moles Away") does any real music rise to center stage, in an ominous little ditty about the corrosive dangers of class hatred, sung as usual in that familiar Residents nursery school cadence. But by then it's too little too late, and after a disastrous European tour ("chaotic on a scale no one was eager to repeat", according to one insider) the project was quietly (and maybe thankfully) aborted.

Consumer note: the original "Mark of the Mole" album was salvaged on the 2005 Mute Records CD re- issue by the inclusion of the 1982 "Intermission" EP: a welcome thirty bonus minutes of more inspired supplemental stage music showing what the "Mole" album could have sounded like.

Neu!mann | 2/5 |

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