The Residents are in their fourth decade together, and it’s been three years (the Commercial Album re-release in 2004 not withstanding) since their last release. Some wait for their fans – particularly from a band that has released over 30 albums, and whose list of collectables and rarities would give even the hardiest of completists a minor coronary.
Quite where Animal Lover sits in the vast Residents canon is debatable. The band have attacked music from so many angles that it renders pointless holding this album up against their previous works.
As the title suggests, Animal Lover concentrates on the steamier side of the animal kingdom. Many of the rhythm parts have been appropriated from the mating calls of certain types of (I kid you not) frog, whale – and apparently the odd human getting it on features somewhere. Thankfully, this approach has been carried out with a modicum of taste, and you would be hard pushed to tell quite where these mating calls are being used.
None of which means The Residents have compromised their artistic integrity, for Animal Lover is out there with some of their more experimental work. Distorted vocal lines sit alongside sections that sound like off-cuts from the St Winifred’s Choir sessions, while the percussion and string lines bring something a little more disturbing to the table.
The sounds used allude to a primordial violence lurking below the surface of animal love, both as an act and as an album. Olive and Gray is haunting, while What Have My Chickens Done Now? adds to the theory that there is nothing creepier than a children’s story, except a children’s story recorded by The Residents.
Animal Lover is an entirely cogent album, and one which someone new to the band could happily dip into – if, of course, that person didn’t mind their music coming from out of leftfield.
For those in the know, Animal Lover will prove to be a welcome addition to the pile of oddness that lurks in the vinyl vaults. It’s a record that disturbs and delights in equal measure, and shows that even after decades in the business The Residents still have what it takes to make some truly innovative and enduring music.