Occasionally, someone will post about the Residents but hardly anybody talks about the Mole Trilogy. Starting around 1981 or 2, the Residents--a band out of San Francisco--found themselves stuck in a rut and getting stale. They were, for sure, one the edgiest bands on the scene at that time and were signed to Ralph Records who made a living signing quirky, weird bands as Chrome, MX-80 Sound, Tuxedo Moon and Snakefinger (they were also the first label to sign Yello before they hit it huge with "Oh, Yeah").

The Residents didn't want to do albums as little islands of music far separated from one another. They wanted to create albums that linked together--maybe an island chain. The first album was called "Mark of the Mole" and dealt a race of subterraneans called the Mohelmot who live in tunnels and wear dark cloaks over their bodies.



They are more famously known as the Moles. A radio broadcast (read by a then unknown Penn Jilette) announces the coming of a severe storm over the lands of the Moles bringing a deluge. The Moles are flooded out of their tunnels and must find a new place to live.

The Moles migrate over a desert (shades of Moses and the Israelites) and enter the land of the Chubbs. The Chubbs are an above-ground race. As their name implies, they are kind of chubby and kind of lazy and vacuous. They have a sort of mindlessly optimistic view of life. The Moles, by contrast, are moody and broody and hardworking. They begin to toil for the Chubbs--doing the menial labor the Chubbs are too lazy to do for themselves. But soon resentments brew. The Chubbs fear the Moles are taking away their jobs as well as their daughters and they don't like it.

War breaks out but it's short-lived and everything then returns to the way it was without much being resolved and so the tensions between the two races simmer.

The next album in the Trilogy was "The Tunes of Two Cities" which focuses on the music of the two races. And this is the album I am featuring here. I find it rather ingenious. The Chubbs' music is based on the early big band jazz, specifically Stan Kenton. Personally, it reminds me irrepressibly of Paul Whiteman and his orchestra. Some really nice sax work Norm Salant and some nice guitar from Snakefinger. The Moles' music, on the other hand, is dark and brooding and more industrial sounding. They chant gutturally to their god, "The Evil Disposer" while the Chubbs' music is instrumental although there are some sounds like voices but the voices don't sing words but simply accompany the music.

It's not hard to see the parallels in American society between whites and blacks or whites and Mexicans. Since the Moles were black shrouds, it album even foretold of the coming of the Muslims to the country and the resentments that have exploded since. But as the album continues, one starts to hear the two races melding together. The music starts to become indistinguishable. Most of the music was actually done on an E-Mu Emulator--a brand new and stunning instrument for its time.



The funny thing about the Mole Trilogy was that it was never finished. If you buy the Mole Trilogy today, you'll get some cool extra CDs full of stuff pertaining to the Mole Trilogy but not that third album itself. Critics accused the Residents of being too ambitious and not planning this thing out well. But I think the Trilogy being left undone was intentional because it reflects America's socio-political and racial climate. Our melting pot and our democracy are both fragile and have been badly damaged in the years since the Mole Trilogy was first released but the I think the Residents were aware that bad things were coming. We are simply not finished yet and may never be.

I began listening to the Mole Trilogy right about the time I joined the service and I couldn't stop listening to it. I played it incessantly. There was just something about it.

With that said, The Tunes of Two Cities: