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THE TUNES OF TWO CITIES

The Residents

RIO/Avant-Prog


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5 stars This is my first review. Its primary motivation is the Poll question, asking for music that is a Guilty Pleasure - i.e. non -Prog but loved. I would have assuredly put the Residents, but upon further review, I notice that they are listed ! However, they are only minimally reviewed here, and this is especially disappointing for my favorite Residents album. Unfortunately, this and the other albums in the "trilogy" were a disaster financially for them.

Of note, Penn Gillette is on background vocals for this album.

Tunes of Two Cities is a truly engaging piece. It is not a challenging listen in any way. In fact, some of the tunes are so memorable, I find myself humming for example - "a serenade to missy" - years after my last listen (the bong bong of an elevator arriving always brings the tune to mind.). Is it political ? Yes, I think so - and the political point is made musically.

This is the instrumental follow-up to 'Mark Of The Mole.' You must have MOTM before you can possibly understand TOTC, even though I find TOTC a better album. In the MOTM, we are introduced to two cultures. The first is that of the Mole People, who live and work in mines, but are forced to surface by some kind of "barometric apocalypse," the song 'Hole Workers At The Mercies Of Nature' describes musically their being forced up from the depths. Moles move to a new area dominated by a modern technological culture. The techies are known as the Chubs, and first are concerned of the influx - "10,000 refugees indeed" they mumble in their ant-immigrant fear. But the Chubs don't like to work, so they get they think that the Moles, who are used to manual labor may be a benefit. Unfortunately, they are very good at handling the machines and they sort of make a mess of it. This is followed by the Chubs successful efforts in automating the work that had been done by the Moles, effectively displacing the moles from the work they had been able to do. Left with no role, there is a "short war" followed by a "resolution" of an indeterminate nature.

This is the background to "Tunes of Two Cities." Unlike MOTM, TOTC is entirely instrumental and alternates between the music of each culture as a way to say something about who each people are. I find the emotional imagery it creates remarkable and of a nature that even similar to what I have experienced with any other music - even other music of the residents themselves. The Chubs' music is jazzy and bright and catchy, but with enough anomalous sounds that the nice impression initially created soon gives way to the disturbing. These chubs have something a bit wrong with them I think. On the other hand, the music of the Moles has the inscectiile and deep mechanical and outwardly frightening sounds that create an ominous impression that later gives way to something else. Though outwardly disturbing and even scary, further listens show them to be perhaps the people more favored by their creators. As the CD progresses, you can note the changes in each song which appears to follow how the cultures are effected by the story line, mentioned above.

I don't have the fourth part of the trilogy (refer to above-mentioned financial disaster for explanation for why there is no third part) so I cant really comment on that.

I have to give this five stars. It is not the height of its genre, it is its own genre entirely. There is absolutely nothing else like it

Report this review (#124658)
Posted Monday, June 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
thellama73
COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Arguably the most successful of the albums that make up the Mole Trilogy. The Tunes of Two Cities presents the "native" music of the fictional cultures, the Moles and the Chubs, from a ethno-musicological standpoint.

Putting aside the utterly fascinating nature of the concept behind the album, there is some really fun music here. Of course it is all terribly quirky, for the Residents can write in no other way. I particularly enjoy the Chub music, due to its jazzy, catchy melodies and warped big band feeling. Smack Your Lips, Clap Your Teeth is particularly successful. The music of the Moles, by contrast is dark and rhythmic, showing the ritualistic nature of their culture. Less catchy, but still quite interesting.

The major flaw in the album is the lack of acoustic instruments. The Residents instead opt for synthesizers that now sound rather dated and cheap. Whether this was due to budget constraints or if they thought it contributed to the superficial cultures being portrayed is unclear. Perhaps they were just using tools that were considered cutting edge at the time. In any case, we can only imagine how good these tunes would have sounded with a real horn section.

Report this review (#141721)
Posted Wednesday, October 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This album, the followup to "Mark Of The Mole", attempts to show the differences between the two cultures featued on the previous album, one living above ground, the other below. The songs alternate between the two societies, but both are odd and disturbing, but great to listen to.

The above ground songs are lighter, more open, and almost joyful, while the underground pieces are dark and mechanical. Both are heavily infused with themes from the previous album, which are often disguised, but become apparent the more you listen to both albums.

Even without knowing the story told on the first album, this is a great example of some of the Residents' bizarre form of music.

Report this review (#374996)
Posted Thursday, January 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
Dobermensch
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Part two of the so called 'Mole Trilogy' of which there were only two parts. This part is utter tripe. Massively spoiled by some horrendous keyboards that sound like something Rod, Jane and Freddy would conjure up in the British kids programme 'Rainbow'.

In 'A Tale of Two Cities' the story briefly goes like this: There are two tribes, one of which are the Chubs who are only interested in a hedonistic lifestyle. The others are the Moles who actually get things done. That's about it. Pants...

In some ways it's similar to the far better 'Eskimo' from '79 with its tribal culture references. This, however, is a dreadful slump in the Residents discography from which they would struggle to escape from for many years. Only the first two tracks prevent this recording receiving the ignominious one star as they are both excruciatingly catchy - the kind of tunes that make you want to punch yourself in the face because they won't go away and leave you in peace.

Probably the second worst Residents album available. Dreadfully dated, mostly instrumental and a complete departure from their 70's successes. A real ugly album full of outmoded and outdated synthetic sounds with very little to commend. The infantile sleeve artwork should be enough to scare any newcomer away.

Report this review (#456665)
Posted Friday, June 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars Another part of the Mole Trilogy in four parts'. Hmmm, I was not expecting much as parts 1 and 4 were very droll. However, I was determined to listen to this to complete the series; all in one sitting I might add so this was quite an ordeal. I like what The Residents do with their music in that they turn convention on its head and break through barriers and nobody can argue that they are an acquired taste. I wonder though what was in their minds when releasing this saga about the two races, the Chubs and The Moles. To reiterate for the uninitiated, the Chubs are the swinging jazz lovers that have the high life above ground and do what they want and have a blast not giving a toss about the hapless Moles who are 'working down below' and are determined to find some solace in the high life above. In Part 1 the Moles were forced out of their flooded tunnels to the surface and an uprising occurred where a war broke out and devastation resulted; a war of racial intolerance.

On this next part in the saga 'The Tunes of Two Cities' we have the inimitable Snakefinger which for me was a breath of fresh air as I always loved his part in the band as guitarist and vocalist. The Tunes are from the two races; the Moles are dark, deep resonating tunes, and the Chubs are jazz fusion atonalities. A nice idea that works better than the other albums in the saga. The album opens with instrumentals 'Serenade for Missy', jazzy dissonance, and 'A Maze of Jigsaws' just plain weirdness from the Moles side. 'Mousetrap' is a piano and synth competition. It has the quirky whimsical jazzy humour that the Residents are only capable of. I began to realise that this was an instrumental album primarily with just a few moments of la la las and that suits me fine as often Residents ruin albums with raving and monotonous chants such as on the abysmal 'The Big Bubble' that should be avoided like the plague.

On with the album, and we have 'God of Darkness' which is more tribal native music from the intrepid Moles clan. It is similar to a lot of what we hear on the first part of the trilogy, complete with chants and odd repeated noises. The saving grace of jazz atonality follows with 'Smack Your Lips (Clap Your Teeth)', from the Chubs race, that have more musical sense for my tastes. Snakefinger's guitar is a highlight as always, just a weird phased sound and there's some cool little synth lines and horns to add to the soundscape. The pieces representing The Moles are certainly as droll as those off of 'Mark of the Mole'. 'Praise for the Curse' is dark and dreary synth burblings with a drum beat, 'The Secret Seed' is chimes that twinkle and clank over a bass drum rhythm and is too long and monotonus. The swinging jazz of the Chubs is wonderful such as 'Smokebeams' with its cool jazz flavour, lots of horns, trumpets and jazz time sigs.

'Mourning the Undead' is a clattering machine noise that drones on like being in a factory reminding me of 'New Machine' from the first album in the trilogy. This is highly strange but compelling as one out of the box among these tracks. It would make a great song to play in a factory; Residents capture the monotonous atmosphere perfectly. 'Song of the Wild' is a sad little tune with some interesting effects on the synths. The sounds are high pitched and unsettling. 'The Evil Disposer' returns to the native sounds of Moles with a lot of percussion and doomy factory like synths. Home [Excerpt from Act II of Innisfree]' is a bass drum and improvised music on horn synths, and repeated noises.

Of the whole four albums in the so called trilogy, this part is most successful but I still regard 'Tunes of two Cities' as a weaker entry in The Residents massive catalogue. 2.5 stars for the Chubs songs with that weird jazz sound. Round it off to 3 for the delirious unique atmospheres.

Report this review (#1070597)
Posted Saturday, November 2, 2013 | Review Permalink

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