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The Residents Mark Of The Mole album cover
3.06 | 67 ratings | 9 reviews | 22% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1981

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Voices Of The Air (2:55)
2. The Ultimate Disaster (8:54)
3. Migration (7:15)
4. Another Land (4:42)
5. The New Machine (7:16)
6. Final Confrontation (9:47)

Line-up / Musicians

Joan Cashel / vocals
Penn Jillette / vocals
Nessie Lessons / vocals
The Residents / arranger
Jeanette Sartain / vocals
Annie Stocking / vocals

Releases information

-Released in 1981 on LP by Ralph
-Released in 1987 on LP by Torso
-Released in 1987 on CD by East Side Digital
-Released in 1988 on CD Torso
-Released in 1997 on CD by Bomba in Japan
-Released in 1997 on CD by East Side Digital

Thanks to Retrovertigo for the addition
and to Snow Dog for the last updates
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THE RESIDENTS Mark Of The Mole ratings distribution

(67 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(22%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(25%)
Good, but non-essential (42%)
Collectors/fans only (10%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

THE RESIDENTS Mark Of The Mole reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by thellama73
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Here the Residents embark on their most ambitious project to date. A sprawling story about to races of people and the clash of cultures that happens when they are driven together through natural forces. I'll spare you the details of the storyline, but as concept albums go, this one makes even the ponderous A Passion Play look light and frivolous.

This album represents the beginnings of the Residents' experiments with electronics, and the results are a mixed bag and largely a matter of taste. Personally, I tend to prefer their acoustic sounds, but they certainly manage to get the most out of their synths. The Mark of the Mole alternates between telling the story of the Moles and the Chubs, and creating faux-ethnic music supposedly enjoyed by the respective cultures. The concept is fascinating and much of the music is good, but the sound is relentlessly dark and the storyline feels someone forced, awkwardly narrated by the singing Resident, with the help of expansive liner notes.

Overall, I find it an enjoyable album, but one wonders if it would be quite so interesting if taken at face value and divorced from the unbelievably audacious concept behind it.

Review by Neu!mann
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.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars The Residents may have overreached on the Mole project, but this disk is at least a very fine album. The album tells the story about two groups of people(?), one that redides above ground, one that resides below, and an epic clash between the two.

Whether you listen to the story or not, the record/CD is a wonder to the ears. Containing eerie and ominous music, the music is a treasure. Created before the eyeball guys started generating most of their sounds from synthesizes, the music has an organic feel to it, while at some times, they use the same instruments to create a very mechanized sound. No one could do it better than The Residents.

My CD, the first ESD release, also has the EP "Intermission" as a bonus. This music is more like the traditional Residents music that we had heard on the previous albums. It was made as Intro, intermission, and outro music for the live "Mole Show".

While this may not be the easiest Residents album to get into, it is one of the finest.

And it has famed skeptic/magician Penn Jillette on it.

Review by stefro
2 stars Possibly the least accessible album by one of the least accessible groups in the history of rock music, 'Mark Of The Mole' finds avant-garde jokers The Residents in dark, dissonant and disturbing form, spinning part of epic tale(which would continue on several follow-up albums though ultimately remain unfinished) regarding two warring factions of mole-like creatures who, after an unspecified natural disaster, find themselves forced into an uneasy co-existence with predictably disastrous consequences. Filled with a freakish palette of harsh, synthesized sounds and featuring a notable lack of the groups trademark whacked-out humour, 'Mark Of The Mole' would find the group arriving at something resembling a transitional point, the rough, lo-fi, experimental edge of the group's 1970's output replaced by a slicker, hi-tech sheen thanks to the decision to employ the latest technology. This would see the album become a thoroughly divisive piece amongst the groups hardcore support, thanks mainly to the extreme nature of the album's content, and it's easy to see why. The music(or lack of) reflects the story's fragmented narrative with an almost demented sense of foreboding, whilst actual melodies and conventional songs are in even shorter supply than usual, making this one tough listen. Finishing track 'Final Confrontation' offers a glimmer of hope, with a slightly(and I mean slightly) less abrasive tone than it's predecessors, yet ultimately this a grinding, deliberately unpleasant experience. The Residents best work ('Meet The Residents', 'Duck Stab') was always nuts, yet the group's abstract approach was usually tempered by knowing humour and deceptively-catchy melodies that cleverly mocked the conventions of mainstream rock music, elements sorely lacking here. Fans of the group and avant-garde enthusiasts might find this boundary-wrecking album all very fascinating, and it takes a special kind of talent to make surrealistic sonic innovators such as Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart seem mainstream by comparison, yet anyone in search of actual entertainment is advised to stay well clear. The equivalent of a(very) bad LSD trip, 'Mark Of The Mole' is an ugly, jagged record that takes the listener to some very dark places indeed.


Review by Dobermensch
3 stars 'Mark of the Mole' is a difficult album. This is the first of a 3 LP trilogy that came to nothing, and at the end of the day , meant nothing at all, despite all their talk of the fictional 'Moles and Chubs' in their struggle for survival.

These 'Moles' are forced to leave their flooded tunnels and look for work in the land of Chubs. This is followed by war and strife, blah blah etc etc. It means sod all and I find it very irritating!

This is however, one recording that doesn't give a frogs fat ass about what their audience thinks. It wanders about all over the place as though you're trapped in a kaleidoscope. There is a continuation of sorts from the predecessor "Eskimo' wherein there's lots of distorted spoken word amongst some very freakish electronics.

This is probably the most difficult Residents album to get into within their entire catalogue. Gone are the nonsensical meaningless rhymes. They are replaced with something that sound far more important but mean absolutely nothing to the casual listener. This really is a tough album to endure but does sit within the framework of their previous releases. It's just that all the fun has gone. The Residents have stopped being a laugh

It's an album that has lost the wacky sense of humour they had, being replaced by doomy miserable vocals, electronics, guitars and tunes that that seem a million miles from the likes of 'Duck Stab' just a few years earlier.

Far uglier and brash than previous albums, it holds that Residents strangeness and originality that will quickly evaporate in the coming years. There are no sing-along moments, just a bunch of harsh tunes and vocals that are very different from their previous releases.

A disappointment, I'm afraid to say. but still well worthy of 3 stars,

Review by HolyMoly
4 stars Mark of the Mole is among the Residents' most successful, emotionally potent, gimmick-free offerings. By this time, the Residents had completely embraced keyboards/synthesizers as a key instrument, but instead of using them for goofy bloops and bleeps (as they did on the couple of albums prior to this), they use them to create a dark purple sky of doom and despair. The result is not only a near-perfect sonic depiction of the concept's subject matter (the plight of the Moles and their eventual migration to the land of the Chubs, where they are persecuted), but also a musically engaging affair that works on its own even without the concept.

It begins with "Voices of the Air", kind of a prelude in the form of radio announcers announcing the coming storm that will eventually wipe out the Moles' homeland. It's kind of bright and catchy in a perverse way. "The Ultimate Disaster" follows, probably the highlight of the album - doomy chanted vocals underneath scary and jarring synth sounds. "Migration" and "Another Land" move the plot along, not quite as impressive musically, but not trivial either. Things really pick up again for the last segment, "A New Machine" and "Final Confrontation", which return to loud, almost industrial mechanical sounds and screaming washes of synth, with urgent vocals underneath, building to a terrifying climax.

This album signaled a new era for the Residents; through the rest of the 1980s they would further explore the concept-album-rendered-in-heavy-keyboards path, but this is the only album from that decade (barring the excellent "God in Three Persons") where you really feel like the Residents were putting a lot of care and attention into their music. Every doomy moment feels like it's on its way somewhere, carrying you forward through the story. One of the 5 best Residents albums, in my opinion.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars The Chubs are the swinging jazz lovers that have the high life above ground and do what they want and have a blast not giving a toss about the hapless Moles who are 'working down below' and are determined to find some solace in the high life above. The music is dark and doomy and at times chilling but this is The Residents and the price of admission is to leave conventional musical terms out the door. As a huge fan of Commercial Album, I was drawn to this 1980s followup which is actually part of a trilogy. The Moles are finally forced to leave their tunnels 'we must leave' as they become flooded and water logged they hunt for sanctuary and work in the land of Chubs. The racial intolerance that ensues causes wars, violence and a racial division. An obvious allegory on race hatred and bigotry the album tends to wallow in nastiness. Gone is the whimsical humour so prevalent on earlier Residents projects, as they embrace a depressing style of conceptual music. The result is that this is a very difficult album to enjoy unless you are prepared to ignore the concept that is based on the misery of the downtrodden. Perhaps this in itself makes it worthy of listening as it is difficult to find a more bleak depiction of racism.

'Voices Of The Air' is one of the best pieces that immediately transports the listener into the Resident's jaded world with deep resonating synths and that familiar Residents vocal twang. 'The Ultimate Disaster' is where it gets hard to take as the chants and monotone singing and that incessant synth melody irritates after a while. 'Migration' is monotonous and perhaps too much so for its own good. It kind of hypnotises with its monotone chanting and ramblings.

'Another Land' has some interesting synth phrases and odd little passages of music with almost subliminal vocals mixed in. 'The New Machine' sounds like the repetitive noises heard in a factory with some excited dialogue. The machine breaks down and we hear the maker saying 'all hail the new machine, live my machine, you have my breath, my dream.' The sounds lock in trying to emulate a factory repeating buzzes, whirls and some grating noises. It is interesting on first listen but afterwards one just longs for it to end so we can get to the incredible climax. The climax is of course found on the war to end all wars between the races on 'Final Confrontation' that almost clocks 10 minutes. The cadence quickens as the conflict ensues, the Moles uprising is devastating as they claim their territory 'all we really want is for you to quickly die.' The droning sounds of synth and little flourishes are wonderful. The lyrics are obvious 'Hatred has hunger and hatred has eyes, Do not disturb us you might be surprised.' The time sig changes as the fight breaks out, a great sequence of synth mayhem. There are the sounds of sirens and some resonating voices 'let my tears run red.' An ascending noise reaches high register and we hear a chaotic outburst of squeals sounding like death walked in the room. This is highly disturbing but compelling. I get lost for a while at this point as there is a blast of dissonance and it all cuts out abruptly, perhaps a nuclear blast. Then a dark little nursery rhyme theme is heard. Who won the war? At first listen I was guessing the Moles took over as that seems likely given their passion to succeed being driven out of their homes. It really isn't clear and maybe it doesn't matter, but we can guess.

'The Mole Show: Live in London' may be a better way of listening to this as it features narration and added songs to make sense of it all. This studio release was followed by 'The Tunes of Two Cities' so this makes up a kind of disjointed trilogy. Overall 'mark of the Mole' had great promise but is lacking the Residents magical touch that blends weird melodies and chilling music with a sense of the absurdist humour. When the humour is removed all that is left is a cold empty shell making for a decidedly unpalatable and most unpleasant listening experience.

Latest members reviews

3 stars One of the mole trilogy recordings, certainly not something to play if you need a cheering up, dark, modern, depressing like much of their work, with a comedic edge somewhere in there, essential Residents, though. ... (read more)

Report this review (#49514) | Posted by Gonghobbit | Friday, September 30, 2005 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Ahh... The Mark Of The Mole. This was the beginning of an epic project that consumed them for some time. It is a parable of racial intolerance detailing the division between the swinging Chubs who live above ground and the Moles who live below to maintain conditions on the surface. It sounds drea ... (read more)

Report this review (#41033) | Posted by DantesRing | Sunday, July 31, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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