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Residents - Demons Dance Alone

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Artist: Residents

Album: Demons Dance Alone

Label: East Side Digital

Review date: Apr. 22, 2003

Dancing in the Dark

For 30 years now, the Residents have existed outside the realm of pop music. They've been covered by Primus, appeared on Pee Wee's Playhouse, been praised by artists like Phish and Frank Black, and had their music videos displayed at the Smithsonian Institute. One could even say that they're one of the true punk bands in existence. While punk intelligentsia may take issue with that assertion, consider the fact that for 30 years (30!!) the Residents have run two record labels by themselves, released all their own albums, toured with their own money, all the while never showing their faces in public. If that’s not punk, then I don’t know what is.

It would have once been considered unthinkable for the Residents to create anything resembling a “pop” album. But September 11th, 2001 found the Residents in the middle of a European tour, and the events that transpired that day seem to have led them to create something entirely unexpected. On Demons Dance Alone, they’ve created a pop album that is just as accessible as (and predictably better than) anything heard on Top 40 radio these days.

It's separated into three categories: Loss, Denial, and Three Metaphors. Loss opens with the wistful "Life Would Be Wonderful," on which the singer laments, "If I had a nice location, to see nice people pass by, as if they were on vacation." You can feel his longing for a time when things were easier, and his disappointment with the loss of innocence, the American past and life’s imperfections.

The Residents are hardly the type of group to wax patriotic and right-wing (remember, for their Bible Stories tour, the group was met with protesters in nearly every city). Instead their surprising political emotions seem to have more to do with a newfound vulnerability, as they witnessed from afar while parts of their country turned to ruins. And this tone resonates throughout all of Demons Dance Alone. The album is still deeply rooted in all of the Residents’ typical strangeness, but it is not nearly as abrasive as, say, Duck Stab. And while they've not necessarily grown mellow in age, the group has managed to come up with an album that channels a surprising range of fears, hopes, and pains when dealing with the modern age. It’s a (pleasantly) surprising step for any artist, even more so for a band with The Residents marked maturity. They have managed to pull off what Neil Young could not do, and have done so with flying colors.

By Stephen Sowley

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