The Residents Animal Lover

[Mute; 2005]

Rating: 5/5

Styles: weird, art, conceptual
Others: Vienna Aktionists, Mike Patton, Nurse With Wound

This is absolutely one of the most intriguing, weirdest albums I've ever heard. I have the words I want to use to describe it, but I'm not sure they're the right ones. I'll begin with some simple logic. You know music that's absolutely not musical in the least... like, say William Basinski? Personally, I don't want to write it off as being a non-musical entity, perhaps because its so firmly entrenched in whatever sonic territory its staked for itself. Now, in the grand scheme of things, this Residents release is pretty highly musical. But I keep finding my brain telling me, "This isn't music, or even art!" That would seem to be a lower level part of my brain, the reptilian brain, because the higher, more aware parts listen to the sounds and place it damn near “musical" on the spectrum. So, I have this intangible conflict between nature and nurture waging. But what's this? The reptile actually LIKES this? That's the oddest part. It rejects Animal Lover on the terms it (ostensibly) wants to be accepted on, but in some other, indescribable way, it's drawn to it. It's a unique response, to say the least.

While sounding very much as though it comes from the Residents' canon, it honestly doesn't sound much like anything else they've done. The vacuity that works so well elsewhere in their works in sucking the listener, now made highly aware, is present here, and indeed its purpose is served. Animal Lover sounds to be entirely predicated around a set of rhythms that can't very well be called "rhythmic" in any musical sense. These rhythms dictate how the uppermost sonic layers are to be cut up/stuttered and laid over apparently virgin underlying sounds. That sounds like it can't possibly work, in the sense that they mesh into a cohesive whole, but somehow they stay on the same page and upon close inspection seem to work quite nicely together.

For the first n-2 listenings, I couldn't find anything to glom onto with this work such that I could describe it. All those feelings up above were swirling around in me, but only served to confuse and flummox me. But then I read the official description of the album: "The Residents wanted to include a soundtrack that related 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." There're also some bits about the existentialism/nihilism inherent in recognizing humans as animals. Anyhow, the thoughts I'd been having were crystallized, and it all made perfect, genius sense. If their point was to illustrate humanity's inevitable nature: "Food goes in one end and shit comes out the other. Sperm goes in and babies come out. It's all we've got," then leading me blindly and ignorantly down the primrose path with nothing but my suspected nature is a smashing success. Regardless, a beautiful concept that's been beautifully executed.

1. On The Way (To Oklahoma)
2. Olive And Gray
3. What Have My Chickens Done Now?
4. Two Lips
5. Mr. Bee's Bumble
6. Inner Space
7. Dead Men
8. My Window
9. Ingrid's Oily Tongue
10. Mother No More
11. Dreaming Of An Anthill (Teeming)
12. Elmer's Song
13. Monkey Man, The
14. Whispering Boys, The
15. Burn My Bones