The Mole Trilogy was a major project undertaken by The Residents in 1981, which formally continued until 1985 and ultimately included three albums, a live show, and a number of related spin-off releases, but despite the release of three albums in the series, the trilogy is considered unfinished.
Following the lukewarm reception of The Commercial Album in 1980, The Residents decided to undertake projects of greater scale and magnitude. The first such venture was The Mole Trilogy.
The story of the trilogy follows two distinct cultures, the Moles and the Chubs, as they face an ideological clash which has repercussions through the generations that follow them.
Originally designed to consist of three albums, the Mole Trilogy concept expanded to include six albums following the live tour in 1983. Each album conveying the narrative of the trilogy (part one: Mark of the Mole in 1981, and the unfinished parts three and five) would then be followed by an album presenting the music of the Moles and Chubs during the time period represented by the previous album (part two: The Tunes of Two Cities in 1982, part four: The Big Bubble in 1985, and the unfinished part six) presenting the music of the story's fictional cultures.
As of 2018, only parts 1, 2, and 4 of the trilogy of six have been completed and released, as well as the Intermission EP and The Mole Show live tour. A 6-CD Mole Trilogy box set is expected for release in 2019 as part of the group's pREServed reissue campaign, but its contents are currently unknown.
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 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. They embrace the arriving Moles, seeing them as a good source of cheap labor. The hard-working Moles soon alienate the Chubs, however. The latter start to complain about the Moles taking all the good work 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, breaking out in a short war which resolves nothing. Afterwards, everything reverts to they way it was before the fighting, with the situation just as tense as ever.
The Tunes of Two Cities collects and contrasts examples of the music of the Mole and Chub cultures. The tracks alternate between the fluffy, Art Deco music of the superficial Chubs and the dark, tribal music of the Moles. Chubs are only concerned with leisure and want nothing to do with real-world problems. The Moles are a tribal, hard-working society who worship a dark god called "The Evil Disposer".
Part Three of The Mole Trilogy, though never released in any form, is briefly described in the liner notes to The Big Bubble (which expands on the storyline of this unreleased installment in the story). Part Three would take up the story several decades after Mark of the Mole. The Moles are living side by side with the Chubs, though there are still tensions between the two cultures. Cross-breeding between the two groups inspires conservative pure-Mole movement, the Zinkenites, who want to return the Moles to the traditional Mole values of their original Mole culture, Mohelmot. One of the Zinkenite leaders is, oddly enough, a cross-breed named Kula Bocca.
The story tells of how Kula Bocca hired a local band called The Big Bubble to play songs to stir up the youth at a rally. The concert started with a speech by Kula Bocca and the band sang songs in the Mohelmot language, which had been banned since the war at the end of Mark of the Mole. Kula Bocca arranged for Ramsey, the leader of the band, to be arrested in the middle of the concert, causing a riot and a huge public outcry against anti-Mohelmot laws.
The Big Bubble expands musically on the events of the story in Part Three. After Ramsey, lead singer for The Big Bubble, was released from prison (thanks to of the outcry his arrest caused) the band was signed by Frankie DuVall of Black Shroud Records (named after the traditional Mohelmot form of dress). Their eponymous first album features the Mohelmot songs sung at the Zinkenite rally, including the new Zinkenite anthem "Cry for the Fire".
The plot of the remaining two parts of the tetralogy, and the resolution of the conflict between the Moles and Chubs and their descendant cultures, is currently unknown.