First of all, we need to ask: who are these people on the cover? Are they The Residents? They obviously can’t be, but on the other hand, why not? This group has a strange look about them, but only strange in the sense that they don’t look like typical professional models. If you were to hire people to pose as your fake band, wouldn’t they be movie star beautiful? These look like normal people, which is abnormal in the modeling world. But of course The Residents would think of that and act accordingly. There’s no way to tell if this is a bluff, or a double-bluff, or even a step or two beyond that. My feeling is (and I have no way to prove this) that one of these men is a Resident, but no more than that. The temptation to include an actual band member in this scenario is just too strong.
But more telling about the artwork is the presence of the eyeball-headed figures, returning from their stint as a pure marketing image to resume their role as social commentators. They lurk in the background of an album by another band, The Big Bubble, and offer a different perspective. While the liner notes from The Big Bubble say their lead singer was arrested for using a forbidden language, the liner notes from The Residents clearly state that this arrest was a publicity stunt. We have two views of the same situation, and The Residents, by definition outside observers, more than likely are reporting the truth, despite this all being a fiction.
This album is, interestingly enough, part four of the Mole Trilogy. I don’t recall a part three, nor do I remember trilogies containing four parts. Is three an unlucky number for The Residents, forcing them to skip it like the 13th floor in a building? Their liner notes refer to the story of part three taking place many decades later, with the two cultures living in uneasy peace. Perhaps they have recorded but not released it – yet another “not available” album, to be hinted at for years before finally being revealed.
The songs are sung in a mixture of (difficult to understand) English and (impossible to understand) Mohelmot, the traditional language of the Moles. The music employs the most traditonal of rock lineups – guitar, bass, drums, keyboard – yet still retains a “Residential” sound. It’s not just the vocals that set it apart; the twists and turns the music undergoes likens the composition more to opera than pop music, and the juxtaposition mirrors the uneasy peace of the story.
At first I thought the Mole language was another new development in the story, but I returned to The Tunes Of Two Cities and recognize it in use there, though it was not explicitly highlighted. But now that the language is playing a leading role, there’s something else that strikes me I had completely overlooked before. Assuming a symmetrical structure to the storytelling, I’ve been expecting part three to be from the Chubs’ point of view. But if the Moles speak Mohelmot, and the Chubs speak English, then Mark Of The Mole is told by the Chubs. There’s even a hint of a Chub song (“Happy Home”) played at the very beginning of that album to underscore the point.
Or perhaps it is better described as a fusion of the two perspectives. The Mole story, translated and presented by the Chubs, for the Chubs. A parallel to the appropriation of black music by whites, perhaps? It’s a backhanded compliment, in that while it is saying “we acknowledge your contribution” it also says “we think we can do it better than you have.” Or have the Chubs entirely stripped the Moles of their culture? That would make the only true examples of Mole music the field recordings collected on the anthropological part two of the trilogy.
Regardless of the answers, we have solved one mystery: Mark Of The Mole is part three of the Mole trilogy.