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The Residents - The Ghost Of Hope CD (album) cover


The Residents



4.04 | 7 ratings

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Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars A Real "Trainwreck" of an Album

The Residents exist in a niche within a niche as one of the most divisive acts in our little archive. Generally regarded as surreal, darkly theatrical, and musically quite a bit more minimalist than the typical prog rock fare, they tend to evoke a "love 'em/hate 'em" response from listeners, particularly first timers. The consistency that one finds with The Residents is their affinity for unifying themes and full-on concept albums to go along with their dark theatrics. Their 2017 release, The Ghost of Hope, fits the mold to the letter.

In the current political climate of "out with the new, in with the old", the first thought that might come to mind is there is a political theme to this album with a name like The Ghost of Hope. Perhaps, but not on a superficial or immediately transparent way. No, The Residents are a great deal more clever than that. The album is a cautionary tale weaved from a conglomeration of turn of the century (19th-20th) rail disasters. Disasters ultimately resultant of hubris and decaying infrastructure, used as a parallel to current technological advancements and inability to apply the throttle in moderation. The seven disasters were chosen not for their quantity of carnage, but instead for the quality thereof. The scenes are painted in particularly gory, often fiery detail. Those familiar with The Residents ability to apply the aforementioned dark theatrics will not be surprised by their ability to create deeply morbid textures into 100-plus year-old stories. Often presented in the ubiquitous monotone, semi-spoken word vocal stylings of "Randy Rose", the stories take on that 90's, early 2000's backwater storytelling motif that became The Residents' staple. Combined with background sound effects of locomotive whistles, crowd noise (even an elephant), and rail clatter, one is transported to the scene of the horrifying incidents as described.

Musically the core instrumentation is consistent with the synth driven textures common to The Residents the late- 80's and forward material. Rarely are the tempos redundant. There are a few surprises. For example, a section of driving hard rock precipitated by the cycling of metal wheels on rail of a speeding train. But overall it falls within the expectations of their later material with long sections of ambiance to color the background canvas of accompanied sound effects.

What sets this album apart is the booklet packaging. The CD is sleeved in a hardcover book presentation. Anyone who has ever seen the coffee table books of railroad enthusiasts will recognize the publication styling. The booklet is 20-pages long, complete with the lyrics, stories and accounts of the accidents the songs describe, as well as accident scene photos with our friendly tuxedoed giant eyeballs photoshopped in for good measure.

For the music alone this is a good to excellent 3.5 star album. Perhaps nothing new under the sun, but beautifully textured and explicit example of the storytelling ability of The Residents. But I highly recommend the full CD package to even fringe appreciators of the band for its collector value. For that, I give the album a solid 4-stars.

Tapfret | 4/5 |


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