The reigning kings of the concept album are back with Animal Lover, another very dense though not completely impenetrable offering from the Residents. They seem to be continuing with the themes of mortality that surfaced in Demons Dance Alone, but this time viewed through the observations and relationships between humans and animals. Each song is accompanied by a written text (in addition to the lyrics), that sketches the scene and characters of the song. There seems to be an overall structure to the work as a whole because groups of songs are separated from each other by brief instrumentals. There's a general malaise permeating Animal Lover, but each of the "sets" of songs presents its own moods and emotions (one set is more menacing and confrontational, one set very sad and sympathetic, etc.). As has been the case for decades now, the Residents have a knack for exposing the dark underbelly of the human condition, but this time it's tempered with some surprisingly empathetic moments. "Inner Space" deals with a woman watching her father die in a hospital (the story explained through the eyes of a mouse, but sung by the daughter) and "The Cat" seems to be about a mother and son and their changed relationship both to each other and the family cat following the son's absence, perhaps due to a war. There's alot more going on in these songs and the way they're arranged, but it will take multiple listens to begin to decode it. Musically, they've added some very organic sounds to their creepy synth stylings, adding lots of acoustic bass, harmonica and violin to the processed sounds of electric guitar and keyboards. There's also a fairly extensive use of chimes, gongs, and gamelan. The "singing Resident" has a diminished role as they utilize a broader palette of voices, including a couple excellent performances by Molley Harvey. There is also an additional disc included, where they take various elements from the album proper and come up with something akin to a dance remix disc, but bear in mind what that could mean given that it's a Residents project. It's really quite amazing how they continue to turn out intelligent, thought-provoking and thoroughly original material time and time again. As with any Residents album or project, it sure as hell won't appeal to all tastes, but close attention given by open-minded listeners will be rewarded. There is no one out there like them.
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AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2