Friday, July 31, 2009

The Tunes of Two Cities

The Residents - The Tunes of Two Cities (listen) This was one of the albums I couldn't work into the Oxford American article I wrote on the band last year, though it is one I love dearly. It is a tone poem about the two sides to a city, the sunny optimistic side where the decision makers live and play, and the supposedly sinister dangerous side where the others all live. Baton Rouge is very much one of those cities, with an invisible wall running down the middle of Florida Blvd that people generally, outside of downtown, don't cross. Baton Rouge is a place where streets change name as the race of people that live on them changes; it can be argued that "Jura" is ghetto for "Wisteria." I don't for a second believe this to be a uniquely local phenomenon - across the country Eisenhower's interstate system finished the job that train tracks started. It is just one that is locally palpable, and one that the work of this mysterious band explores. As the album progresses, the two sides of the city commingle, adopting each others alleged virtues and shortfalls, never quite becoming one but at least acknowledging the other, which would in most places, be a start.

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