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The Residents: Animal Lover

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The Residents have released a crap-load of records over the 30+ years of their existence. Their first album, “Meet The Residents,” was released in 1973. Since then, only considering nationally distributed full lengths, the quantity of releases is enough to make a music fan look at his or her bank account in sorrow. Then factoring in all the website/fan-club exclusives (many of which can fetch in the realm of $80+ on ebay) you’ll get historians scratching their heads trying to document it all. Then there are the re-releases… many albums have seen more then one re-release… and still the majority of their catalog is out of print and unavailable except through online or used sources.

Their early work is, without question, their best. In fact, of the eight albums I rank as my favorite releases by them, the only one released after 1982* was “WB:RMX,” which was released in 2004. I, and I am sure I’m not alone in this, would argue that “WB:RMX” hardly counts since it is a remix of the previously unreleased demo tape The Residents recorded in 1971 to shop around to potential labels.

So it is with some sense of awe that I have to report that The Residents’ soon to be released album “Animal Lover” ranks up there with those eight masterpieces as the best thing The Residents have done since ’82. My love love of The Residents, as with most, was kindled with the early albums. For me it was specifically “Duck Stab” that completely revolutionized the way I viewed music. For others it may have been “Fingerprince,” which may be the best work they’ve done, or “Not Available,” or the mind boggling “Eskimo.” Even “Commercial Album,” which signaled the beginning decline of the musical quality (though scoring points for the totally pretentious point of the album and method of promotion.)

After that, The Residents seemed to slip into a mindset of caring more about the storyline or theme of the albums than the music used to accompany them. Ranging from “Mark of the Mole” (which was a good album, but who’s impact was majorly lessened by making two more cds based on it’s idea to make up the Mole Trilogy) to the horrid American Composer series which, thank God, only saw two installments.

The last nationally distributed new recording from The Residents was “Demons Dance Alone.” People hailed it as a renaissance of sorts for the band. Thanks to the shift in sound, where they eliminated a lot of the synth feel that dominated a lot of the 80s and 90s work, the fans overlooked the fact that the music was just terrible. It signaled the possibility of a return to form, but rung all too hollow.

“Animal Lover” definitely brings to fruition the promise of a return to form. Within the first 10 seconds of “On The Way (to Oklahoma,)” the first track, we realize that this is what we’ve been waiting for all these years. The vocals are a bit distorted and layered. The music chimes behind them, clashing yet totally complementary, bringing to mind the classical work of Steve Reich. When the small choir kicks in toward the end of the song it feels like you’re entering a dream world with the angels ushering you in.

Tracks two, three, and four keep up the momentum with unpredictability, great song structure, and that continued clashing of notes. A tension is present that hasn’t been felt since “Duck Stab.” Character voices are used, without letting them overshadow the songs. The first four songs alone are essential to any fan of The Residents.

The greatness is put on hold for three minutes for the instrumental “Mr. Bee’s Bumble,” something that feels like it could have been whipped up during the dance remixing of the WB demos. Not bad, but could have been left off, also, without causing any heart attacks. However, it does signal a change in direction that is present through most of the remaining tracks.

It’s more low key than the prior five tracks, creating a comfortable lush atmosphere complemented by good female vocals (probably frequent collaborator Molly Harvey, though the advance copy of the album doesn’t list credits.) It’s a good introduction to this part of the album, where lush and female vocals dominate. Track seven, “Dead Man,” boosts the creepy level a tad with the mournful, almost chant-like singing. There is another small choir used on this track, to great effect.

The most disappointing track of the album follows, “My Window,” which feels like it borrows from some of the musical themes of “Demons Dance Alone.” And not in a particularly interesting way. But enough of that.

“Mothers No More,” the tenth track, gets things back on beat, with a hypnotic duet midway through the song. It utilizes an almost religious-like chanting. The slower, meditative music lazily meanders through the instrumental “Dreaming of an Anthill (Teeming.)”

“Elmer’s Song” is one of the most innovative tracks featured on “Animal Lover.” It starts off sounding like a slavery gospel song that might be sung in the fields with a hot sun beating on your neck. The solo is by a very Residents-esque character, with simply a bass and simple plucked guitar accompanying. See the hoes rise and fall in rhythm…

“Burn My Bones,” track 15, wraps the album up with funky vocals, a long instrumental section, and a cool acoustic guitar duet reminiscent of Gastr Del Sol (a Jim O’Rourke project,) without quite reaching the frantic, abstract frenzy that I love about Gastr Del Sol.

The album’s theme is sex, as observed by animals. The little blurb that came with the advance copy of the cd reads:

Animal Lover… relates directly to “animal love.” The result is an imaginative CD whose rhythm tracks are based entirely on animal noise mating patterns generated primarily by cicadas and frogs. Also, the actual sounds of mating whales and humans were used for longer tonal passages. (They weren’t making with each other, by the way.)

From listening to the album I couldn’t tell. I never heard any sex, and the lyrics weren’t distinguishable without a lyric sheet. The full release should have the lyrics with it (in addition to other goodies!) so you can follow along. I definitely recommend this CD for all Residents fans, especially the ones who gave up after the fourth installment of the Mole Trilogy.

*”Residue” was originally released in 1982, however, the version I have is “Residue Duex” which is all of “Residue” with the addition of 11 tracks. This was released in 1998. Being a Residents fan, I didn’t want the discrepancy to go unmentioned.

About The Theory

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    cool stuff theory.

    i’ve only got one Residents cd (Cube-E Live, i think) and have always wanted to fill in some holes.

    recommendations?

  • Eric Olsen

    huge fan of their seemingly endless stream of weirdness – check out our interview with spokesman Homer here

  • The Theory

    Mark… if you can pick up Fingerprince or Duck Stab at a good price (either Amazon’s used option or ebay) either one of them would be, I think, a good place to start.

    eric- sorry I didn’t post the Amazon ASINs… but i was doing this at, like, 2:30am and forgot with the innitial posting. Then when I checked the article on the site I noticed that I forgot them… but my computer crashed and I said “to heck with it” and went to bed. I was going to fix that today.

  • The Theory

    oh, Mark, and Commerical Album is readily available these days thanks to the 25th Anniversary edition… that’s also a good one.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    Theory’s recommendations are great places to start.

    I also think you could get a cool viewpoint of these guys by buying the new one first and then going back to the ones the theoretical one theorizes are best.

    I looove Animal Lover. The first four songs are, like Theory says, a kind of Residents demi-glace, like a sort of summation of a lot of what they do condensed into just a little portion. Theory, do you hear a sort of “summing up” quality to this album, like a purposeful looking backward?

    I sort of do, but I doubt myself, because this idea seems so antithetical to their aesthetic.

    Great job on the review, too.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    PS: If we’re taking a survey, my favorites are Eskimo and Meet the Rs.

  • Eric Olsen

    very early on, those – I love the queasiness of FReak Show

  • ClubhouseCancer

    Me too. I’m higher on Mark of the Mole than Theory, I think, also.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    if you guys don’t cut it out i’m gonna haveta buy every danged record they ever put out!

  • ClubhouseCancer

    Or you can steal them!
    Wait, that’s another thread….

    You’ll like these guys, Mark, I’ll predict.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    yep, we’ll see…

  • Eric Olsen

    there’s a 25 anniversary collection out too, maybe start there?

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    i dunno, i’m not too fond of collections.

    i like to hear stuff in it’s original context.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    I’ll save you the keystrokes, EO.

    “I love greatest hits albums!

    Sincerely,
    Eric”

  • Eric Olsen

    some I do, some I don’t – context can be everything or nothing – snatch the pebble glasshopper

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    it’s everything, dammit.

  • Eric Olsen

    I don’t want to listen to five albums by some group that have one or two good songs on each when I can listen to a hits collection that collects them all – hence the name

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    sure, but how do you know that the other songs aren’t ‘good’?

    one of the few collections i have is Tom Waits’ “Used Songs”, and the only reason i got that was because i unpacked my stuff after arriving on vacation and realized i’d neglected to pack any Waits cds.

    two weeks with no Tom Waits? i don’ think so.

  • Eric Olsen

    the hits collections almost always come out after the original albums the songs were on

  • The Theory

    Wow, quite the convo sprang up since I was last on. Letssee…

    Re: CC’s comment on #5… I think that rather than calling Animal Lover a look back, or a summing up, I think it manages to masterfully cull (a seperation of the wheat from the chaff) what The Residents do best and make it into a cohesive album. If they were trying to look back I suspect that it would sound very forced and end up as ultimately disappointing as Demons Dance Alone.

    re: EO’s comment #7… Freak Show was the first one (along with Duck Stab and Cube E) I bought… it was used and I was intrigued. Definately ranks up there. I’m also fond of the often ignored (but simular) Gingerbread Man. I love how haunting that melody can be… especially when twisted and repeated to almost a Philip Glass-ian extent.

    re: MS’s comment #9… doubtful you could do that, even if you wanted to. I’ve been working on it… and I’m still nine (more or less…) shy of the regular releases… and that’s ignoring the undistributed, website/fan club releases.

    The one I really want is High Horses, an EP released a number of years back through the website. Only 15 minutes long, it’s carosel music, Rez style. Apperantly it has a very 3D effect. The only copy I saw on ebay went for $100+… not something I can spend on 15 minutes of music. haha.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    TT,

    I moved this up and over to Advance.net, which includes these places.

    Potentially read by hundreds of thousands of visitors.

    Thank you for the post. – Temple Stark

  • Deanna Szuter

    I have 99% of all thier releases. All the regular releases. Only shy the first single release and a couple others. I’ve been a fan for 22 years, and love ALL the releases!!! I can only pray to see them live one more time in my life. You’ve not seen anything until you have seen them live.

  • The Theory

    well then I officially hate you… just like I hate everyone who has seen them live.

  • The Theory

    ;-)

    (yeah!)

  • Malai

    Well, I do not think that “My Window” is a bad track. For more sensitive listeners it is a gorgeous track. I don’t need too much experimenting any more since I went through a lot of it in the past. Slow, deep, sensitive is not equal to boring, but many people think so, especially those who are in a hurry all the time and need fast, mellow music. Try to listen to e.g. Kancheli’s works if you will be able to concentrate in for such a long time. Then you will probably change your attitude to slower tracks by The Residents. All the best! M.

  • Gerry Van Troyen

    Personally I don’t think it’s even possible to think of collecting ALL residents recordings. I’ve been a fan from ’85 and had the opportunity to go and see wath they had stacked in their vaults. Boy, we only know of 1/4 of what there is around (and not around but made)I think there’s at least as much as rejected albums as there are released ones and i don’t mean different versions (like the ones Tom Timony of Ralph/Tec Tones used to make himself with different artwork or colors in vinyl) Sometimes the rejects are better than the released ones, like Land of a 1000 dances, G3P sung by another Residents whose name i don’t want to reveal HERE.