The Residents - The Ghost Of Hope album review

Concept album based on age‑old US train wrecks

Cover art for The Residents -The Ghost Of Hope album

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This moving yet strangely exhilarating album is a distant relative of The Residents’ 1979 album Eskimo, their sonic studies of Arctic culture. The Ghost Of Hope uses for its text yellowing cuttings describing the all-too-frequent railway disasters that befell America when the mode of transport was in its infancy.

The tracks are a mixture of recited newspaper reports, describing the carnage in affectingly quaint tones, coupled with a soundtrack that combines railway sound effects with an ever-changing soundscape of styles: on Death Harvest, for example, traversing from dark ambient to propulsive rock.

The fact that the vocals are sung may seem slightly sardonic to some, especially given The Residents’ pedigree, but sincerity shines through. This album isn’t a satire on mechanical folly but a tribute to the reckless optimism of humanity in its ongoing technological aspirations.

David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.