Review: Animal Lover

Cover of "Animal Lover"
Cover of Animal Lover

So, we’re stealin’ the idea from the Sparks Project and doing one with probably even more records out there — The Residents!  And this time we’re changing it up a little bit — we’ve got two hardcore Residents fans in me and Rich, but Aila is, at best, a casual fan, who will be hearing about 99% of these records for the first time.  DANGEROUS!  So, enjoy, THE RESIDENTS PROJECT!

Richard J. Anderson:  This is the hardest review I’ve had to write for the entire endeavor. I’m going to cut right to the bone here: I don’t like Animal Lover. At all. It’s bad in a way that the late 80s and early 90s stuff is not. Those albums simply felt uninspired and dull. Animal Lover is the opposite of that: lush, and textured, and clearly had a lot of thought go into it. In fact, The Residents claim they were working on it before the Demons Dance Alone album. You can’t call this a toss-off release.

So… the premise of the album? Well, supposedly it’s built around rhythms of, er, animals copulating. The lyrics are about human relationships with animals, from the animal’s point of view. I don’t get any vibe of sex out of this, and while many of the lyrics concern animals, the point-of-view thing gets lost, and quick. Hell, the song “Two Lips” is actually about the Tulip Mania that gripped the Dutch during the 17th Century. The concept vanishes about two songs into the disc, occasionally popping up again, but to say it’s an album about animals and humans is just wrong.

This is not the problem with Animal Lover.

The problem is, well, I just don’t like it. It rubs me the wrong way. There’s some good points of Animal Lover. We get a lovely swan-song performance from Molly Harvey, doing her best old woman, and creepy child voices on “What Have My Chickens Done Now?” Nolan “N.” Cook’s guitar playing never fails to impress… but everything else? I don’t know. There’s an over-reliance on vocal effects and multi-tracked choruses that come out as exceedingly shrill. There’s a roughness that annoys me that may come from The Residents combining new work with the original demos they worked on post-Wormwood, but I can’t say for certain…

I just don’t like Animal Lover. Maybe you will. Thankfully, it’s the outlier in the Residents post-Demons Dance Alone discography.

Rev. Syung Myung Me:  I don’t think I hate Animal Lover as much as Rich does, but it is a mess.  It seemed they really had concept drift all over this one.  Even when they announced it, they couldn’t quite decide what it was.  First, they said it was about people into bestiality, then they said it was about people in love with each other from animals’ points of view, then they said the thing about rhythms of animals fucking, and well, honestly?  None of these applies.  You get a couple good songs, like “On the Way to Oklahoma”, which actually does fit… at least one of the themes, being about a guy who thinks he has turned into a tiger, and eats and fucks his way around, but… yeaaah.

It doesn’t help that most of the music seems kind of phoned in, too.  It’s just… really a mess.  It’s really strange to me how the Residents kept at this album, even though they’ve definitely been known to drop projects — even projects they’ve announced.  (American Composers’ Series, anyone?  Or the Eskimo opera? Or the God in Three Persons film? Hell, they even have a portion of their website devoted to failed projects.)

Looking at the site for the album, it really appears — and this wasn’t noted when the album came out — that the Residents themselves didn’t really get what to do with this one either.  They say they’d been working on it since Wormwood, and had different lineups and different stuff going on — and set it aside for Demons Dance Alone…. only to come back to it when they didn’t know what to do next.  And they still didn’t really do it.  It’s one of the only Residents albums that seems to have been recorded for the desire to have New Product after a while, rather than, well, an album.  The only other one I can think of that was New Product was Assorted Secrets, which the Residents have disowned… but was actually pretty cool.  Way cooler, I’m sad to say, than Animal Lover.  Hopefully getting it out from over their heads let the Residents do later albums (which are, like Demons Dance Alone, high quality)… but I think I’d rather have just had a couple of the tracks leak out on a Residue-type of compilation with a “what could have been” note.  I think it’s a little odd to release a concept album when you yourselves don’t really know what the concept is.  How are we supposed to deal with it then, huh?

Aila:  Animal Lover is one of the greatest albums I’ve ever heard. It succeeds on every level, and it’s a masterpiece achievement by any standard, for a Residents album or not. Just kidding. It’s almost worse than Hitler and 9/11 combined (…well, almost).

This is another ‘concept’ album, as is almost every album by this band. This time I’m not even sure what the exact concept is, but it’s got something to do with animals. Ho-hum. The music is OK but sort of soulless. It’s not even played or produced poorly, it’s just lacking something. That said, the few instrumentals, like “Mr. Bee’s Bumble” and “Ingrid’s Oily Tongue,” are probably some of the least annoying tracks on the album. The music sometimes feels a bit like a film noir soundtrack, but from a really lousy movie. On the vocal tracks the main singer is just as annoying as ever, and the female singer who has appeared on recent albums is almost as bad, especially on a song like “The Monkey Man,” which is best described as bland audio vomit with a sharply annoying finish. She does also sing the only tolerable song with vocals on the record, “Inner Space,” but it’s no saving grace. Actually, this album is really just a collection of terrible songs, interweaved with even more terrible songs. The last batch of songs, apparently remixes of the first part of the album which are all titled “Imaginary Jack,” are redundant and even worse than the bulk of the album. I kind of wish I had something mildly nice to say about this record, but I don’t really. It ends. That’s the best part of it.

Animal Lover is another one for the fire in my book. I’d say this is one for ‘fans only,’ but when I think about it, I wouldn’t even recommend it for a Residents fan. I mean, can’t you find something better to do? Go for a walk. Eat some beans. Punch yourself in the face. Any of those are better.

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