The Residents - The Ghost Of Hope album review

Shreveport’s veteran outsiders get back on the (eye) ball.

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Omnipresent and barking mad, The Residents have spent more than 40 years making deeply strange, unique records.

Still largely anonymous to even their most devoted fans, they’ve never acknowledged rules, let alone obeyed them, and so The Ghost Of Hope’s distinctly wonky and macabre premise fits with anything else in the band’s swivel-eyed canon. Inspired by several specific and horrific trainwrecks on America’s primitive 19th century rail network, these seven skewed tone poems would be unsettling enough without any deeper subtext, but an underlying parallel between the insane pressures put on that era’s primitive technology and the rapid-fire madness of the post-internet age leaks through thematic cracks for a sense of timely pertinence. The Crash At Crush and Shroud Of Flames are firmly rooted in The Residents’ (dis)comfort zone of weird atmospherics, grinding avant-rock riffs, elegant orchestrations and disembodied voices making peculiar pronouncements. But while their recent releases have suffered from conceptual looseness, TGOH hangs together beautifully, both as an eccentric historical endeavour and as a reminder that creative conformism is not, and never has been, obligatory.