Mark of the Mole details a conflict between two differing cultures: the Mohelmot, or "Moles", a subterranean society whose gods offer salvation through hard labor; and the Chubs, a leisurely and vapid species who live in luxurious homes by the sea.
After the lukewarm reception of Commercial Album from the once-friendly New Wave music press, The Residents began to feel angry, confused, and frustrated. Deciding that "a disaster was in order", they set about composing an album which told the story of a culture driven from their homes by a storm and forced into a confrontation with another people.
Mark of the Mole draws on various tales from the Great Depression, such as John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. It opens with a radio broadcast (narrated by Penn Jillette) of a warning about a storm brewing over the lands which contain the tunnels of the Mohelmot.
The Mohelmot are a strange race of cloaked figures who prefer to live underground and who are known as "Moles" as a result. The storm arrives quickly and floods the Moles out of their homes, forcing them to migrate across the desert to the sea, where the Chubs live. The Chubs are a chubby, vacuous people who live for pleasure in a cozy pop culture.
The Chubs embrace the arriving Moles, seeing them as a good source of cheap labor. The hard-working Moles soon alienate the Chubs, however. The Chubs begin to complain about the Moles taking all the good jobs and marrying the Chubs' daughters; all the usual redneck complaints about immigrants, of which The Residents had heard plenty when they were growing up in Louisiana.
The tension between the two groups comes to a head when the Chubs create a "New Machine" to eliminate the need for manual labor altogether, offending the Moles (whose desire to work is driven by their religious beliefs). A short war breaks out, but ultimately ends without a clear victor.
Afterwards, everything reverts to the way it was before, with the situation remaining just as tense as ever. The short instrumental piece "Resolution?" ends Mark of the Mole without a clear conclusion to the narrative, which would have continued in the never completed Part Three of The Mole Trilogy.
The liner notes to the album The Big Bubble states that the war ended with no clear winner, and the two ethnic groups continue to live together in uneasy peace for at least one more generation.
Mark of the Mole was the first part of a projected trilogy of six albums (three albums to tell the full narrative of the trilogy, with another three albums focusing on the music of the fictional Mole and Chub cultures). The Residents combined the story and music from Mark of the Mole with the music of the next album, The Tunes of Two Cities, in 1983 to create their Mole Show performance tour, which became the band's biggest financial disaster, and ultimately led to the cancellation of the Mole Trilogy altogether after the release of The Big Bubble in 1985.
An Atari 2600 game based on the album was being developed by Greg Easter in 1983, but it was later cancelled. If it had been completed and released, it would have been one of the very first music-based video games. A novel based on the album was also written in 1985 by an otherwise unknown author named T.D. Wade, although it was never published. A short excerpt of the novel was published in Uncle Willie's Highly Opinionated Guide To The Residents in 1993.
Mark of the Mole was reissued on CD in 1988 by ESD and Torso, featuring the tracks from the group's 1983 EP Intermission as bonus material. It was later reissued again on CD without the Intermission tracks.
A newly remastered and preserved edition of Mark of the Mole features on the first disc of the 2019 six-disc collection Mole Box, along with the other releases in the Mole Trilogy, and three hours of additional previously unreleased material.
Hole-Workers at the Mercy of Nature
- Voices of the Air (2:55)
- The Ultimate Disaster (8:54)
- Won't You Keep Us Working? Working Down Below?
- First Warning
- Back to Normality
- The Sky Falls
- Why Are We Crying
- The Tunnels Are Filling
- It Never Stops
- Migration (7:15)
- March Into The Sea
- The Observer
- Hole-Worker's New Hymn
Hole-Workers vs. Man and Machine
- Another Land (4:42)
- The New Machine (7:16)
- Final Confrontation (9:47)
- Driving The Moles Away
- Don't Tread On Me
- The Short War
|East Side Digital||CD|
|1998||East Side Digital||US|
|2011||Birdsong & Hayabusa Landings||JP|
- The Tunes of Two Cities
- The Mole Show
- Part Three of The Mole Trilogy
- The Big Bubble
- The Mole Trilogy