Demons Dance Alone(2002)
The bulk of these songs were written and recorded after Sept. 11 2001. The Plutarch quote - "A fool cannot hold his tongue" - which they use on the cover acts on several levels. To write a straightforward song about that day would be foolish to say the least (though several egomaniac popular singers are doubtlessly doing so right now). The Residents have not done this. Neither are the songs on DDA discipherable metaphors for loss of life on that day. Despite artistic acclaim from those who understand and appreciate their art The Residents have held their tongues throughout their career. They also use a quote from Robert Graves, the First World War veteran and poet. Many artists who witnessed the horror of that conflict found themselves unable to talk about it using the usual methods. Indeed our very language (or tongue?) was deemed inadequate to describe such mechanised slaughter. I'm going to hold my own tongue now..
What does clearly come across is a sad weariness with the follies of human nature. This melancholy has always been present in their work but never before this tangible. Instead of being lost to anger though they have created some of the most bittersweet and melodic music of their career. The songs they have placed under the heading of 'Loss' are their finest yet. There seems to be a French influence (must have been that Polnareff tribute album) evident on songs like 'The Car Thief' and 'My Brother Paul'. There's a real musical economy at work, tasteful and well judged, like the way the stately chords of 'Honey Bear' are underpinned by skittering, almost drum and bass percussion. My current favourite track is 'Caring', a perfectly formed pop song with fantastic psychedelic/gothic guitar and sax breaks. Great story too if you listen to the words. DDA is a lot more varied than I am making it sound though. The ghost of Snakefinger (or a guitarist doing a damn good impression) is drafted in for 'Mickey Macaroni'. Two songs are carried by what appears to be a child (of a Resident?). 'Wolverines' is half Wormwood, half 80s funk nightmare while 'Betty's Body' and the title track seem to playfully drop 60s pop guitar riffs into the mixture (is that 'Needles and Pins' on 'Demons Dance Alone'?). There is anger, but it's a resigned anger. WHY do we fuck it up every time? Who makes us commit these atrocities large and small? If there are demons we have invited them, because it's all US.
The various members of the Residents stand out more as individuals. Much of the Residents' output since the late eighties has seemed very characteristic (?) and attributable to a core creative unit, but this album (more than any for a long time) sounds like the joint effort of a "band". Of course this much has been admitted, but since when has anyone believed anything they tell us?