I love these guys! They are the most self-indulgent group I've ever heard! This is a collection of 26 songs recorded live in Holland that explores the "history of American music in three 3 e-z pieces." The titles of the three pieces are self-explanatory: Buckaroo Blues, Black Barry, and The Baby King. The music in this release sounds pretty "normal" to me, even though weird minimalistic sounds permeate all around. But what really appeals to me is the processed vocals. It's completely unintelligible and grates on your ears, and I love it! The characterisations of Cowboy blues in e-z piece one at times works out well, in songs like From the Plains to Mexico, and Saddle Sores, but in some songs the music sounds distinctly middle-eastern. The characteristation of soul music in e-z piece two is pretty accurate, albeilt in an indirect fashion (i.e., it's soulful, but also possess the middle-eastern harmonic minor inflections normally not heard in soul). I can only imagine the Elvis Presley impersonation in piece three. They take the music of Presley and fit it into a narrative of sorts (I should mention the voice of Elvis is more understandable, and the accent is hilarious). This, at the very least, is a brilliant interpretation of Presley's music, and, by itself, represents the ability of the Residents to produce awe-inspiring experimental music.
Someone wrote on the TWISTED HELICES www page regarding my music: "I'm pleased by finding the bastard child of Ween and the Residents on the net." I found this comment interesting mainly because I had heard only 3-4 songs by the Residents, even though I was well aware of their notoriety. I was curious to see how I could sound like a group that didn't have a direct influence on me (it is very clear they've been an influence on Primus, one of my favourite groups). Since I was also curious about Interactive CDs, I decided to pick up the Residents' latest release paying a whopping $30 for it.
First, let me critique the music on the album and proceed to show how the interactive nature of the media enhanced my perception. The music is indeed weird. There is some similarity to the kind of music I make, but the music of the Residents in this album sounds more like something you'd come across in a Disney soundtrack. The Residents are also far more minimalistic than I, but the common thread, which the commenter above probably noticed, is the fact that they are remarkably self-indulgent. They throw anything and everything in and make musical soups, i.e., they run "pop music through a blender" (as someone said of my music). While my blender is essentially extensive processing of the sound, theirs works on the melodic and rhythmic structure of the songs. Note that my opinion is probably biased since this is a concept album. There's a little melodic ditty, which is extremely catchy, that runs through all the songs, the titles of which are explantory of the concept: The Weaver, The Dying Oilman, The Confused Transsexual, The Sold-Out Artist, The Ascetic, The Old Soldier, The Aging Musician, The Butcher, and The Old Woman.
The Gingerbread Man is your host in the interactive version of this album as you explore the different psyches depicted in the songs. You visit each psyche through the Enter Eye and listen to the song that depicts the psyche as you click on various buttons with pseudo-random results. This is the greatest strength of this interactive CD release---nowhere is the randomness as effective as in the song The Aging Musician, where pressing any key results in an onslaught of guns. Combined with the lyrics, they clearly get their depressing message across effectively. The Residents have also used graphics and animation in a spooky and eerie way to supplement the craziness of their characters. But active interaction, after a while, becomes boring and tiresome. Passive interaction (where "random" choices are made by the computer) does result in a cool sequences of images that you can watch lying down and absorbing the music. Thus, in the end, all the Residents have done is produce a music video album along the lines of what you'd find in MTV, albeit a dark one. If you do purchase this release, be sure to try it both interactively and without the graphics. It adds an extra eerie dimension to the experience.
"Once upon a time I played an electric guitar and they said I was a rock 'n' roll star. Now nobody calls me on the telephone, so I sit and watch my TV all alone. Maybe if I put a bullet in my brain they'll remember me like Kurdt Kobain. And the parasites on MTV would wipe their eyes and act like they knew me. But I wouldn't be a hero I'd be dead. Just a corpse beside a note that read. If you like to pretend you'll never get old, you've got what it takes to rock and roll." ---The Residents, The Aging Musician
A tribute to the Residents, one of the weirdest bands of all time, is just what the world needed (no facetiousness implied here): A cathartic remedy for all those who are bored with the droning in the airwaves. Lo and behold, almost 30 bands, ranging from mainstream artists such as Cracker and Primus to underground ones such as Borgia Popes and Giant Ant Farm provide exactly that on this album. The covers span the Residents' career, with songs from Santa Dog to The Gingerbread Man. Some of the highlights of this album (i.e., tracks that come close to replicating the Residents' weirdness, or even excelling it) are Only a Mother's Mahagony Wood, Idiot Flesh's Bach is Dead (which sounds a bit like Mr. Bungle), Borgia Popes' Constantinople, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282's Electrocutioner, Utotem's Sinister Exaggerator, Snakefinger's Smelly Tongues, Poxy Boggards' Santa Dog, Pink Floyd the Barber's Boo Who, and of course Primus' Hello Skinny medley (which has become a staple of their live shows). To top it all, the CD comes in a cool diecut case, and some neat artwork, as well!
I just got an advance copy of the Residents' Wormwood for review (which they'll be playing at the Halloween show at the Fillmore this year). It's a hilarious parody of the Bible and its "dark" side. A modern day Jesus Christ Superstar, but far more experimental than anything Andrew Lloyd Webber has ever done.
Lyrically, as Uncle Willie writes in the liner notes: "The Residents have tackled this book in all this complexity without the responsibility of a scholar." However, this statement is not entirely true as citations are given for every song urging the skeptics to look it up (I myself haven't done this and verified the content, trusting the eye-balled ones).
The music is more symphonic than any of their releases, but still twisted and self-indulgent. It's also one of the tightest concept albums they've produced. Fire Fall, Mr. Misery, Burn Baby Burn are classics along the veins The Aging Musician or Lottie the Human Log.
The band retain the somewhat more commercial production and minimalist aesthetic seen in the albums in this decade but they're still far far from the mainstream. This album truly earns them the title of the most influential band no one has ever heard of, and is one of the coolest albums I've heard in this decade. After all these years, the Residents show that they still retain their magic and "follow their moose."