The Residents, intent on not merely continuing to create a series of obscure musical albums, decided to undertake projects of greater scale and magnitude. The first such venture was The Mole Trilogy. This was designed to be a collection of six albums, three of the story and three of music. The story line followed two cultures through their ideological clash. The music albums were to document the two cultures' music and then illustrate how it changed through the conflict of the two cultures together. Perhaps this was a bit ambitious. As of the publishing of this, only parts 1, 2, and 4 have appeared. There has also been one spin-off album and a world tour based on this premise.
Mark of the Mole(1981)
After the New Wave music press decided that The Residents weren't any fun anymore, the band began to feel angry, confused, and frustrated. Deciding that "a disaster was in order", they set about composing an album which told the story of a culture driven from their homes by a storm and forced into a confrontation with another people. This album was the first part of a planned Mole Trilogy.
The Mark of the Mole draws on various tales from the Great Depression, such as John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. It opens with a radio broadcast (narrated by Penn Jilette) of a warning about a storm brewing over the lands which contain the tunnels of the Mohelmot. The Mohelmot are strange race of cloaked figures who prefer to live underground and who are known as "Moles" as a result. The storm arrives quickly and floods the Moles out of their homes, forcing them to migrate across the desert to the sea where the Chubs live.
The Chubs are a chubby, vacuous people who live for pleasure in a cozy pop culture. They embrace the arriving Moles, seeing them as a good source of cheap labour. The hard-working Moles soon alienate the Chubs, however. The latter start to complain about the Moles taking all the good work and marrying the Chubs' daughters -- all the usual redneck complaints about immigrants, of which The Residents had heard plenty when they were growing up in Louisiana. The tension between the two groups comes to a head, breaking out in a short war which resolves nothing. Afterwards, everything reverts to they way it was before the fighting, with the situation just as tense as ever.
VOICES OF THE AIR
THE ULTIMATE DISASTER
Won't You Keep Us Working?
Back to Normality?
The Sky Falls!
Why Are We Crying?
The Tunnels are Filling
It Never Stops
March to the Sea
Hole-Worker's New Hymn
THE NEW MACHINE
Driving the Moles Away
Don't Tread on Me
The Short War
Voices of the Air
People should be left alone
Unless they have a happy home.
...to partly cloudy. The central part of the country, especially the Pit area, currently has clear skies but that condition could soon change due to an unusual influx of unseasonably cool winds sweeping down into the infamous Pit heat. Meanwhile here on the west coast the weather has continued much as it has for the last week.
When it was back when
We would not pretend
We were only friends.
We interrupt our regular program for this special announcement... Our telometer is reporting that a large storm has developed in the vicinity of the Pit area. Any travelers who might be headed towards that distant region are encouraged to delay further plans until this storm has passed.
Won't You Keep Us Working?
God of the nightfall, God of the shade,
God of the deep it's you whose made
All of the evening, all of the night,
All of the motion without light.
God of the darkness, God of the soul,
God of the deep dark friendly hole;
God of the unseen, cloudy and dim;
God of the hiding hear this hymn:
Won't you keep us working -- working, working, working;
Won't you keep us working -- working down below.
Back To Normality?
Harmony cannot be denied; Once again we are satisfied;
Calm and quiet have been restored; So it is as it was before.
The Sky Falls
Why Are We Crying?
Shrinking from the touch of darkness, moaning in the night;
Sobbing into melancholy, weeping into fright;
Graciousness is not forgotten and into its place,
Whispering insinuation finds a fond embrace.
The Tunnels Are Filling
It Never Stops
There is no home where we reside, if there is nothing down deep inside,
Except a serpent sitting beside a promise of nothing except suicide.
I have been told, deep in my dreams, that there is hope, and that it seems
All that we seek was seen by the sea; yes,
Safety and comfort do dwell by the sea.
March to the Sea
We are rising as the sun retreats into the trees;
We're thinking of our destination as we start to leave;
We're marching to the sea, marching to the sea.
Smiling from the gentle touches of the evening breeze;
No one is unhappy now and no one is fatigued;
We're marching to the sea, marching to the sea.
I'm a tired old man in a tired old land
Watching shadows moving across the sand;
Now they move at night and I understand
That they cannot see more than they can stand.
I have been deceived, I have murdered and
I have seen the soul of an unborn lamb;
It can burn a hole in a guilty man,
But it cannot stand in a distant land.
Hole-Workers New Hymn
We have left our lives, we have left our land,
We have left behind all we understand,
Now we must cry out, yes we must demand --
Let my children live in a land that's low,
Where the holes are deeper than light can go;
Let them have not pride but instead a soul
That can see the shame of the hands that glow.
Hole-Workers vs Man and Machine
I heard a rumor from the east
That Pit Moles' battles with the beast
Have left them mindless and sick,
That west is where, their fingers say,
Are new found sites that give them something to cling to.
The rumors have them coming here
Believing life is not so harsh.
Life not so harsh, indeed.
A hundred thousand refugees?
The Pit Moles are coming, I heard just today;
Our problems with labor have just been done away with.
The Pit Moles will work hard and we'll barely pay;
So eager to get work, they'll do things just the way we want.
The Pit Moles are thrifty, their Gods reassure
That poverty's blissful; they like being destitute.
Deployment / Saturation
Sign here. Sign here.
Sorry! That's all we need now;
Sorry! That's all we need.
No... No... No more work now.
The rest of you please leave.
Today I have declared myself to be a subject of the will of the people. Too long have my studies and research been for my own pleasures and distractions. Civilization needs the minds of its people. My first project will be the freeing of our underground workers. There is no reason why technology cannot be called on to meet this challenge.
A machine. A great machine. I see it now. Creatures! Seek your dignity! Scrap metal and I shall fight, and you shall be the winner!
They lie about all through the day
Thinking that they should be paid
For all 'em knowing how to breed
Producing more for us to have to pay for their food, too.
They'll steal our daughters for their brides
Expecting more than life provides
A huge ungrateful straw stampede...
Failure / Reconstruction
Failure... Oh, my beautiful machine. My poor, poor beautiful machine.What have I done wrong? Where have I failed you? But give up? Never! Not as long as there are souls imprisoned in the dark life. Not as long as a whisper of life clings to my body. There will be freedom in the holes! All will hail the new machine! Yes! Yes! I think I've got it now. There, the spark leaps to live. The Golden Age quivers on the brink of creation. Live, my machine! Live my savior! You have my breath... You have my dream, my dream.
Driving the Moles Away
We don't want your arm, we don't want your hand,
All we really want is for you to leave our land;
We don't want your foot, we don't want your toe,
All we really want is for you to pack and go;
We don't want your necks, we don't want your backs,
All we really want is for you to hit the tracks;
We don't want your nose, we don't want your lip,
All we really want is for you to take a trip;
We don't want your skin, we don't want your hair,
All we really want is for you to become rare;
We don't want your tongue, we don't want your ear,
All we really want is for you to disappear;
We don't want your ankle, we don't want your knee,
All we really want is for you to quickly leave;
We don't want your palm, we don't want your wrist,
All we really want is for you to soon be missed;
We don't want your brow, we don't want your eye,
All we really want is for you to puke and die!
Don't Tread On Me
Hatred has hunger and hatred has eyes,
Hatred has purpose and hatred has size,
Hatred has honor but hatred hates lies!
Assailants of mercy with hate in your eyes,
Do not disturb us, you might be surprised,
We are not weaklings to tremble and die.
Hatred has dignity, hatred is clear,
Hatred has courage and hatred is dear,
Hatred has virtue and hatred is here!
Odious enemy do not come near
There is no pity nor tenderness here,
There is no mercy just villainous fear!
The Short War
The Tunes of Two Cities(1982)
The Tunes of Two Cities is Part Two of The Mole Trilogy. It collects and contrasts examples of the music of the Mole and Chub cultures. The tracks alternate between the fluffy, Art Deco music of the superficial Chubs and the dark, tribal music of the Moles.
Chubs are only concerned with leisure and want nothing to do with real-world problems. To emphasize this, many of the Chub tracks are mutated covers of escapist big band songs from the 1920s and 1930s. For example, Mousetrap and Happy Home cover Stan Kenton's Eager Beaver and Machito respectively, and Smack Your Lips (Clap Your Teeth) is a version of In the Mood.
The Moles are a tribal, hard-working society who worship a dark god called "The Evil Disposer". The music of their songs features the Harry Partch-influenced use of invented instruments and languages, as did The Residents' other tribal culture album, Eskimo. In fact, one can look at the Mole music as being an extension of some of the ideas which The Residents examined at in that album, just as the Chubs' twisted versions of 1930s popular music harkens back to The Third Reich 'N' Roll's versions of '60s pop. The Mole tracks feature dark, primitive vocal lines made up of chants and prayers, while the Chubs' music is entirely instrumental. The only exception is the last track, Happy Home (sung by Nessie Lessons instead of the growling Residential lead singer found in the Mole tracks). The song is billed as an "excerpt from Act II of Innisfree", though no clue is given as to what that might mean. One theory is that Innisfree is a Chub musical about Moles roughly analogous to George Gershwin's Porgy & Bess (a musical by a white American about black slaves).
The Tunes of Two Cities was the first album The Residents made featuring their new toy, the EM-U Emulator. The Emulator was the first commercial sampler and The Residents were among the first to buy one (theirs was #00005 off the assembly line). That Emulator provides most of the instrumental sounds on the album, with the exception of the guest musician's contributions: Snakefinger's guitar work and Norman Salant's saxophone playing, both of which appear in Missy.
Serenade for Missy
A Maze of Jigsaws
God of Darkness
Smack Your Lips (Clap Your Teeth)
Praise for the Curse
The Secret Seed
Mourning the Undead
Song of the Wild
The Evil Disposer
Happy Home (Excerpt from Act II of "Innisfree")
The Tunes of Two Cities is essentially a prequel to Mark of the Mole. It consists of a dozen cuts: cultural samples, six from the Moles and six from the Chubs. The Residents alternate the pieces, cinematically intercutting the societies to pin down their characters and aspirations. And they do their work with an originality, a painstaking sense of detail, and an emotional wallop which makes Tunes, for me, their finest album.
The Mole cuts on Tunes are comparable to Eskimo, in that The Residents are again inventing the ritual music of a â€œprimitive" society. Mole music embodies all the Residents' reverence for tribal cultures, and to keep the soul from being eclipsed by the hardware, they use voices on all the Mole cuts. The voices are wordless and highly stylized. Sometimes the weirdness is melodic, but more often it is timbral: â€œMaze of Jigsaws" has a howling, animalistic chorus, and a low, rippling solo voice; at the end, that voice returns in a distant, ghostly reinvention that's genuinely chilling.
Not surprisingly, Chub music is every bit a apocalyptic as Mole music. Chub music is pop, but by intercutting the two idioms, The Residents describe a commonality beyond musical structures. Mole music and Chub music are about the same thing, they serve the same purpose: the ritual exorcism of suffering. Almost all of the Chub cuts are covers of Big Band standards. So just as Mole music is an outgrowth of Eskimo, Chub music harkens back to The Third Reich 'N' Roll: Again, The Residents are trying to discern what's hateful, dangerous, and fascistic in pop culture; what values it betrays about ourselves. But if Reich 'N' Roll seemed self-consciously methodical and pyrotechnic, Chub music has an almost documentary coherence, a found-object integrity, because of its detail and relative uniformity.
Tunes is quintessential Residents, opening new mine shafts into their humor, experimentation, allusiveness, elusiveness.... yet it's also without a doubt their most accessible work. The expressive freedom of Mark of the Mole takes a quantum leap with Tunes, where the music wordlessly articulates the convictions that generated it. Role-playing and pyrotechnics, ordinarily The Residents' defenses against emotion, here serve to realize emotion, and this music can speak to people as no other work of theirs has.
Tunes reminds me of Citizen Kane: an original, technically sophisticated achievement that's more than accessible - it's downright entertaining. No easy trick, for both works are obsessed with wealth, privilege, and power; nostalgia and loss; decadence and dissolution. And as long as I've gone this far, I'll confess that I find them comparable in quality; Tunes is one of the triumphs of American Music, regardless of genre or era.
- Cole Gagne
The Big Bubble(1985)
Part Four of The Mole Trilogy expands musically on the events of the story in Part Three. After Ramsey, lead singer for The Big Bubble, was released from prison (thanks to of the outcry his arrest caused) the band was signed by Frankie DuVall of Black Shroud Records (named after the Mole's traditional form of dress). Their eponymous first album features the Mohelmot songs sung at the Zinkenite rally, including the new Zinkenite anthem Cry for the Fire.
The music on The Big Bubble is a synthesis of the Mole and Chub music found on The Tunes of Two Cities, performed using traditional Rock music instruments. These two albums make a set of three kinds of music in a way echoed later by the three parts of The Residents Cube-E tour, which featured white American music, black American music, and rock-n-roll -- the synthesis of the two.
The Residents wanted a just-about-live sound to the album so they recorded the vocalists lines first and lay down the other tracks over that. The results are -- well, people don't really agree what the results are. Some fans loved it, some hated it. Cole Gagne, author of Sonic Transports, calls the album "brilliant", while Ian Shirley, in Meet the Residents, says that it was evidence that The Residents were "treading water". A UWEB poll suggested that it was tied with Not Available as the weirdest Residential album, which makes some sense, since both albums were created in order to work out some problems and stress within the band.
One place where the album was an unquestioned success, however, was Japan, where it had been released on Wave Records (along with a rather inaccurate lyric sheet which Wave reversed engineered from the album). The popularity of The Big Bubble there inspired Wave to invite The Residents to Japan for their next tour.
Oh, and by the way... The four figures on The Big Bubble's The Big Bubble album cover (which is featured on The Residents' The Big Bubble album cover) are not The Residents without their disguises. The band advertised in local acting papers for people to pose for this cover. Coincidentally, a German fan who was visiting San Francisco happened to drop by the Cryptic Corporation that day, and they grabbed him and stuffed him in a tuxedo for the photo shoot as well (he's the one on the right of the three behind Ramsey on the cover, or the extreme right in the gatefold picture). The actor who posed as Ramsey (the one in the front on the cover or the back on the gatefold) went on to work for The Residents 13th Anniversary Show as the stage-lighting ninja.
Hop a Little
Go Where Ya Wanna Go
Gotta Gotta Get
Cry for the Fire
The Big Bubble
Fear for the Future
Kula Bocca Says So
In the fall of 1981 The Residents released Mark of the Mole. This first record of the Mole Trilogy laid out the basic story line for the first two parts of the story. One, the Hole-Workers battle against the ravages of nature in the form of a storm that destroys their homes; and two, their resulting conflict with a neighboring culture that is very different from their own. The second part of the triogy was released in spring of 1982. It featured examples of the music of both the Chub and the Mole cultures so as to more clearly illustrate the difference between these two societal forces. The remainder of 1982 and all of 1983 was spent touring a large scale musical/visual presentation of these two albums that was known as The Mole Show. Upon returning from the European part of the tour, The Residents rested briefly and threw themselves into the job of completing the story. Part three of the trilogy picked up on the story several decades after the great war. The survivors of the two cultures lived side-by-side in uneasy peace. The war had not resulted in any clear winner, but time had promoted those who had the appropriate appetite for power, and the Chubs were famous for their various appetites.
Many Moles and Chubs had blended socially so mixed marriages were common. Their offspring were refered to as "Cross". In responce to this a "Zinkenite" movement by traditional Moles, or "Mohelmot", had surfaced to encourage the establishment of a new Mohelmot nation. Surprisingly, many of the officials of the Zinkenites were "Cross", as though the Chub genes had brought out a new aggression to the Mohelmot sense. One such official was a charismatic second generation cross named Kula Bocca.
Kula Bocca knew that if the Zinkenites were to succeed in reestablishing their society, they needed the energy, passion, and, above all, naivete of youth. He hired a local band to play for a rally at Elmwurst, and, although he did not think they were very good, the band immediately captured the heart of the crowd with a single song, "Cry for the Fire". The song even had a section that was sung in the original language of the Mohelmot which had been outlawed since the war. Few in the audience could understand what the singer was saying, but everyone immediately grasped that a deep link was being established with their past.
Kula Bocca could see the power that this band, "The Big Bubble", had on the public. At a later rally he arranged for the singer of the band to be "arrested" to stir up sympathy for the Zinkenites, and then he contacted Frinky DuVall of Black Shroud Records concerning The Bubble. Black Shroud supported the Zinkenites even though Mr. DuVall was a Chub, and agreed to release an album for the band.
So now The Residents proudly present Part Four of the Mole Trilogy... the Black Shroud album by the band that is shaking a nation... THE BIG BUBBLE.
The Liner Notes for the album on the album Rarely in the history of popular music has a meteoric rise been seen equal to that of the band whose first album you are currently holding in your hands. Less than two years ago Ramsey, Paul, Alex and Frank started getting together in their Leone family garage to "play around" with some tunes that Ramsey and Frank had been writing together. One of these songs was a catchy riff named "The Big Bubble". On their own the foursome raised enough money to release a single of "The Big Bubble" and the tune became an instant regional hit. However, since they had never taken a name for their band, and the lable of their single only read "Big Bubble", the name of the song was soon forced upon them as the name of the band as well. Not until the political rally of Elmwurst did the band gain national prominence. Following a speech by Zinkenite spokesman, Kula Bocca, the band premiered a new composition, "Cry for the Fire". Twenty thousand people came to their feet, interlocked arms, and listened in stunned silence as "The Big Bubble" sang to the people in the ancient tongue of the Mohelmot, forbidden since the war. "Cry for the Fire" became the anthem of the Zinkenites. In November at the Casema rally, Ramsey was arrested for singing in Mohelmot. The resulting riot and public outcry forced his release three days later. At that time, Frankie DuVall, president of Black Shroud Records, called on the "Bubble" and stated that he was ready to back the group on an album that would include the Mohelmot vocals, the first time that the Mohelmot language had ever been recorded. So here it is. The boys have re-recorded their first hit "The Big Bubble" (note the altered lyrics on this version), as well as ten other tunes, six of which use the Mohelmot speech including the controversial Zinkenite anthem "Cry for the Fire".
Hope you dig it. - Black Shroud Records