The Residents

The Voice of Midnight

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The Residents have firmly embraced the concept album for many years now. But recently, projects like Tweedles and especially The River of Crime have seen them move towards more straightforward storytelling. Well, straightforward for the Residents at least. For The Voice of Midnight, they turn their attention towards Prussian author E.T.A. Hoffmann, whose dark and creepy stories would seem to be right up the Residents' dark and creepy alley. Specifically, they take up Hoffmann's short story "The Sandman," where the young protagonist is haunted by terrible childhood memories that cloud his adult life and ultimately cause his downfall. Although the Residents transplant the story to a more contemporary setting, they stick very closely to the original story line. It's presented differently, but all the basic plot elements are the same (except for a wonderful Resident-ial twist at the end). Musically, it sounds like no one but the Residents, with the addition of strings and the screaming guitar of Residents collaborator Nolan Cook. There aren't songs per se, the main characters of Nate and Claire speak their roles; Nate only occasionally breaks into verse, and then very briefly. Both voices sound young and new to Residents recordings. The Sandman himself has a comparatively small vocal contribution and always "sings" his part. It's clearly the voice of the "Singing Resident," but longtime fans might lament his diminished role. Some nice musical touches are the allusions to Bernard Herrman's Psycho in the first track and to a Stephen Foster tune in "True Love." Part of "The Telescope" sounds almost like a dance track. The rest is suitably dark and menacing. There's even a nice eyeball tie-in with the story. This probably isn't the best place to start if you're just discovering the Residents but it's certainly interesting for fans as they head down this new path.

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