The Residents are true avant-garde crazies. Their earliest albums (of which this is the first) have precedents in Captain Beefheart's experimental albums, Frank Zappa's conceptual numbers from Freak Out!, the work of Steve Reich, and the compositions of chance music tonemeister John Cage — yet the Residents' work of this time really sounds like nothing else that exists. All of the music on this release consists of deconstructions of countless rock and non-rock styles, which are then grafted together to create chaotic, formless, seemingly haphazard numbers; the first six "songs" (including a fragment from the Nancy Sinatra hit "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'") are strung together to form a larger entity similar in concept to the following lengthier selections. The result is a series of unique, odd, challenging numbers that are nevertheless not entirely successful. The album cover is a fierce burlesque of the Beatles' first U.S. Capitol label release, sporting puerilely doctored photographs of the Fab Four on the front and pictures of collarless-suited sea denizens on the back (identified as Paul McCrawfish, Ringo Starfish, and the like). This is an utterly bizarre platter that may appeal to very adventurous listeners.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
The first official release of Demons Dance Alone was the "Deluxe Edition", a limited edition of 3,000 numbered copies with a bonus CD. The CD's are contained in a hardback book with lyrics and a velvet-effect outer sleeve. The bonus disc features early versions of some of the tracks on the album disc plus some unreleased material that never made it on to the finished version.
Monday, May 17, 2010
This is to be considered a bit different than the Animal Lover (the regular version) release, as it has a different focus. Rather than a release of that record, simply without vocals, it has been re-approached by the group, and rearranged a bit to present the music in a new light. Of course, if you are familiar with the original recording, that will make this release all the more interesting. A limited edition release of 1,000 copies and all were numbered by hand.
This was a one sided single on transparent green vinyl and packaged in a plain white sleeve. 800 copies were made and attached to the back cover of the first edition copies of "The Cryptic Guide to The Residents" book. An often forgotten very short piece that alot of REZ fans might have never heard.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Timmy made his original appearance as the spunky kid in BAD DAY ON THE MIDWAY way back in 1995. Timmy returned with more of his curious insight into the workings of the world with a weekly series of very short videos that made its first appearance on July 26th, 2006. The videos were hosted by YouTube.com, but are accessible through Residents.com as well as MySpace.com.
The story centers around an eccentric character, the bunny boy, whose search for his missing brother compels him to post videos on the internet as a "cry for help." As the story evolves, it opens up to interaction between the bunny boy and his audience, causing the narrative to twist and turn in odd and unpredictable ways. Spanning a gap between insanity and self realization, the loony, but affable bunny boy soon finds himself pursuing a goal no less vital than saving the world from Armageddon. It's a wild ride. The stage design, by Chris McGregor (CUBE E, Wormwood, Icky Flix) featured a unique "schizophrenic" layout that allowed performers to move between musical, video, and theatric realms. Barraging the audience with imagery and sound, in typical Residents' style the performance radiates and savors the quality of a surreal circus. The group performed their music live while integrating other visual and performance elements into an evening of riveting and unique entertainment. Captured here is a live performance that took place at the Lakeshore Theater in Chicago on October 17th 2008.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
The Residents have wanted to experiment with looser forms of music and lyrics. Talking Light is designed for performance and is based on a mix of improvisation and scoring. The concept for this project is interpretive story telling with an interactive electronic score. "What are ghosts" ask The Residents - spirits of those no longer inhabiting the flesh, but unable to leave their lives behind? Or could ghosts be a manifestation of something even less tangible, like loneliness, unfulfilled desire or isolation? In a world where nearly everything has become defined and categorized, how do we fill our obvious, purely human need for the fuzzy , vague and supernatural - with TV commercials? The ghost of a morbidly obese woman haunts her lesbian lover, filling the void of death with food commercials and Dr. Phil. A man becomes obsessed by the spirit of an executed serial killer who stuffed the mouths of his victims with Pudding Roll Ups, an extinct kid's food from the 1980's. A dead boa constrictor named Leonard (after Leonard Cohen, of course) plagues the mind of its former owner, currently consuming Oscar Meyer hot dogs by the dozen. These are just a few of the "ghost stories" told through the magic of The Residents' Talking Light.
The Beatles Play The Residents and The Residents Play the Beatles - This is the common title of a single which has two tracks: Beyond the Valley of a Day in the Life and Flying. The first track -- aka "The Beatles Play The Residents" -- is a tape collage of excerpts from songs by The Beatles. The flip side of the single, "The Residents Play The Beatles", is a cover of Flying, which was chosen for the treatment because it was the only song the band could find which credits all four Beatles as composers.
On August 16, 1997, The Residents did three performances of a 30-minute stage piece called Disfigured Night for the PopKomm music festival in Köln, Germany. The performance was sponsored by Malboro and filmed by VIVA TV (the German music TV station). The Malboro sponsorship turned out to be something of a problem. The concert was heavily promoted in Germany, with lots of photographs of the band and stories in Der Spiegel and the like. (Der Spiegel even had a link to the RzWeb -- probably the most prominent publicity this site has ever had). However, Marlboro was unhappy with Mr. Skull. They felt that a death's-head didn't fit with the image they wanted to project at the concert, and ordered that all images of Mr. Skull be removed from all promotional material. Any pictures of the skull-head were either dropped or edited so that it was replaced with an eyeball. Der Spiegel apparently dropped its link to the RzWeb because of this. The Residents were none too happy with the situation, but it was too late for them to protest and they had committed a lot of resources to the show, so they couldn't cancel out. The performances themselves went quite well and were a success. Each opened with a Resident coming out and, much to the audiences' amazement, removing his Eyeball-head. Of course, the Resident had a a head-stocking (one of the ones from Cube-E) hiding his features. The first Resident was joined by a second, also wearing a stocking over his head, and the two went to the instruments and video boards. The performance took place in front of a bluescreen on which artwork by Steve Cerio, who did the "Shooting Gallery" artwork for Bad Day on the Midway, was mixed live by one of the Residents. Once they were all set, they were joined by Silly Billy, the mute star of Disfigured Night. Silly Billy has a strange gift -- by touching a person or an object, he can "remember" the most painful events associated with him, her, or it. This makes Billy quite happy, since he feels that by touching these awful memories he is releasing them. As a result, he always has a sappy, smiling expression, which earned him the name "Silly Billy". One day he finds a one-legged monkey (the last fourth Resident) who used to belong to a one-legged golden-haired girl, who's song fills Billy's mind. Billy vows to reunite the two, but he discovers that he is no longer immune to the pain he feels when he touches people -- it starts to affect him directly. Billy's only consolation through the pain of his psychometric experiences is the monkey and when the monkey dies, Billy withdraws into himself. In his little hole, he finds a wrapped present which, on opening, turns out to contain the dead monkey's head. The head bites off Billy's leg, and slowly he transforms into the golden-haired girl whose song had haunted him. The story ends with Billy singing a frenetic version of We Are the World. All in all, it's rather confusing.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Matt Howarth’s Post Brothers focused on a pair of psychotic assassins with the ability to shift between realities. Russ Post was more the enabler and dealmaker of the team – Ron Post was a wackjob that Lobo would be afraid of. Based in Bugtown a crazy cyberpunk city of no fixed abode that could give Cynosure a run for its money in the sport of Just Plain Crazy, they formed the core of an amazing sci-fi universe that spread across several titles over their publishing life. At around the same time he started Post Bros, Matt had done a series of minicomics for Ralph Records starring the characters from The Residents’ current Magnum Opus, The Mole Trilogy. So when Bugtown started to take shape, The Residents followed. But not just in a cameo; they were wholly integrated characters in the books. The Residents were quasi-mystical beings who helped keep Bugtown running properly. They used empty hats as portals to enter rooms. They made a series that was already edgy and experimental and truly out of this world.
Historically, one of THE RESIDENTS’ primary obsessions has been the creation of alternative worlds. Sometimes this has been accomplished with sound - Mark of the Mole, Not Available, God In Three Persons; sometimes with live performance - The Moleshow; and sometimes with video - The Third Reich N’ Roll, It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World, and, perhaps more than any other project - the unfinished feature length video, Vileness Fats. The world of Vileness Fats, consisting of a village, a cave, a desert and a nightclub, is tiny, claustrophobic and primarily populated by one armed midgets ...or “little people” - if we remain within those contemporary standards endorsed by the politically correct. So what purpose could THE RESIDENTS have possibly realized by creating this tiny world full of mutant midgets? Some would say it was a brilliant way of adapting to their limits: working in a small studio with a ceiling height of under 12 feet, THE RESIDENTS were still able to create a fairly large bridge set, a cave, and a night club by making all the actors squat down and hop. Others might say that the group was so naive and inexperienced that the only way they could possibly camouflage their spirited, but amateurish writing, acting, music, direction and production techniques was by creating a world that was so completely ALTERNATIVE, that it defied comparison to anything in the so called “real” world. With THE RESIDENTS, of course, one never knows, but what is known is that the group spent four years from 1972-76 shooting anywhere from 60%-75% of the projected feature length video. Then, as the project was headed towards the ending stages of production, the group suddenly abandoned its “all time underground masterpiece.” Some say the “movie,” as they called it, was brought to a halt by internal conflicts within the group, others say the technological challenges left in the remaining scenes, as well as post-production problems, were too difficult to overcome, while others point to the fact that, since there were no viable distribution channels available for movies shot on half inch B&W video in 1976, the group’s initial naiveté was finally overcome by reality. Again, we’ll never know. Two versions of the incomplete feature have been released: the 32 min long “Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats?” (1984) and the tighter 17 1/2 min “Vileness Fats (Concentrate)” (2001), and both come across as artifacts from some hellish but mildly amusing nightmare - the claustrophobic product of a model railroad builder’s beyond bad acid trip. Due to the extremely poor audio quality of the original footage, both are primarily silent films with RESIDENTS’ soundtracks, and while there is some attempt to explain the plot, the result is not unlike pitching horseshoes in a closet - unsatisfying at best. Again, some say the obvious explanation is that there was no script - that the story and dialog was purely improvised, that THE RESIDENTS made it up as they shot. But, according to the group, these rumors are untrue.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
The Warner Bros. Album is the title of an album's worth of early recordings by the then-unnamed avant garde group, The Residents, sent to the Warner Bros. record label in the hopes of obtaining a record contract. The band mailed it anonymously to Harve Halverstadt, who worked at the label with Captain Beefheart, one of the band's musical heroes. The tape was rejected and returned, addressed to "Residents, 20 Sycamore St., San Francisco". This is the origin of the group's name, which was at first "The Residents, Uninc." but was later shortened to The Residents. The Residents agree that Halverstadt made the right decision, as the tapes were of poor quality. The entire album was broadcast on an Oregon radio station in 1977 during a Residents Radio Festival, and was later heavily reworked for release in 2003 as WB: RMX. Otherwise, the album has never been released.
Baby Sex is the title of an unreleased recording by The Residents. The title is lifted from the cover, an image of a woman performing oral sex on an infant boy - an image which was lifted from a pornographic magazine from Denmark. While The Residents are known to be incredibly embarrassed by their early works (and strive to keep them unreleased in their original form) they may be reasonably proud of Baby Sex, as several tracks from this have appeared on compilations. It was also broadcast in its entirety on a radio station in Oregon during a Residents Radio Festival in 1977. The second half of the album is a studio collage which includes portions of The Residents' impromptu live performance at San Francisco's Boarding House in October 1971. Assisted by Snakefinger and N. Senada they staged a "terrorist attack" on the club, performing for thirty minutes. The album also features a cover of Frank Zappa's "King Kong".
Over the course of a recording career spanning several decades, the Residents remained a riddle of Sphinx-like proportions; cloaking their lives and music in a haze of willful obscurity, the band's members never identified themselves by name, always appearing in public in disguise — usually tuxedos, top hats and giant eyeball masks — and refusing to grant media interviews. Drawing inspiration from the likes of fellow innovators including Harry Partch, Sun Ra, and Captain Beefheart, the Residents channeled the breadth of American music into their idiosyncratic, satiric vision, their mercurial blend of electronics, distortion, avant-jazz, classical symphonies and gratingly nasal vocals reinterpreting everyone from John Philip Sousa to James Brown while simultaneously expanding the boundaries of theatrical performance and multimedia interaction.
It was commonly accepted that the four-member group emigrated to San Francisco, CA, from Shreveport, LA, at some point in the early '70s. According to longtime group spokesman Jay Clem — one member of the so-called Cryptic Corporation, the band's representative body — they received their name when Warner Bros. mailed back their anonymous demo tape, addressed simply "for the attention of residents." Finding no takers for their oddball sounds, the Residents founded their own label, Ralph Records, for the purposes of issuing their 1972 debut "Santa Dog," released in a pressing of 300 copies which were mailed out to luminaries from Frank Zappa to President Richard Nixon. Their debut full-length, 1974's Meet the Residents, reportedly sold fewer than 50 copies before the group was threatened with a lawsuit from Capitol Records over its cover, a twisted Dadaesque parody of the art to Meet the Beatles.
The follow-up, 1974's neo-classical excursion Not Available, was recorded with the intention of its music remaining unissued; locked in cold storage upon its completion, only a 1978 contractual obligation resulted in its eventual release. Released in 1976, Third Reich 'n' Roll was the next official offering, a collection of pop oldies covers presented in a controversial jacket portraying Adolf Hitler clutching an enormous carrot. After a 1976 concert in Berkeley, CA which cloaked the Residents behind an opaque screen, wrapped up like mummies — the most famous of only three live performances mounted during their first decade of existence — they issued an abrasive 1977 cover of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," which became an underground hit on both sides of the Atlantic at the peak of the punk movement. As the decade drew to a close, the group released a flurry of recordings, further building upon their growing cult following — among them were 1977's Duck Stab/Buster & Glen; 1979's Eskimo (purportedly a collection of native Arctic chants); and 1980's Commercial Album, a compilation of 40 one-minute "pop songs" that aired on San Francisco radio only because the Residents played them during the advertising time they bought.
In 1981 the Residents embarked upon their Mole Trilogy, a prog rock collection of albums — 1981's The Mark of the Mole, 1982's The Tunes of Two Cities, and 1985's The Big Bubble — recounting an epic battle between a pair of tribes named the Moles and the Chubs; a lavish, multimedia tour, The Mole Show, followed. In the interim, the group also mounted another ambitious project, the American Composer series, although only two of the projected titles — 1984's George and James (a reinterpretation of songs by George Gershwin and James Brown) and 1986's Stars and Hank Forever (celebrating John Philip Sousa and Hank Williams) — ever appeared. Instead, in the wake of financial and corporate difficulties which resulted in the creation of a New Ralph label, the Residents issued the one-off God in Three Persons (a talking blues outing), and 1989's The King and Eye (a reinterpretation of Elvis Presley standards).
After losing control of the Ralph label as well as their back catalog, the Residents regained the rights to their music in 1990 and began reissuing long out of print material as well as the new Freak Show, a meditation on circus sideshows and carnival dementia. Four years later, Freak Show was reissued as a CD-ROM, marking the group's first leap into the new digital interactive technology; Have a Bad Day followed in 1996, and included the soundtrack to the CD-ROM game Bad Day on the Midway.
In 1997, the band celebrated their silver anniversary with the release of the career-spanning overview Our Tired, Our Poor, Our Huddled Masses. Wormwood: Curious Stories from the Bible followed the next year, with Roadworms (songs from Wormwood as performed in the stage show) being issued in mid-2000. They followed that up with the Icky Flix DVD, an incredibly detailed collection of their videos that featured both old and new soundtracks, 5.1 digital stereo Surround Sound, countless hidden videos, and in-depth histories of each individual track. A subsequent tour incorporated the DVD, while guest singer Molly Harvey joined the band on-stage for some truly creative duets. Several high concept projects followed the 2002 compilation Petting Zoo. The first was Demons Dance Alone, a complicated pop album that recalled the catchier material from Duck Stab and The Commercial Album. The live retrospective Kettles of Fish on the Outskirts of Town contained three CDs and a DVD. Despite the release of so much old content, new material wasn't in short supply. Their releases throughout the latter end of the 2000s' first decade included Animal Lover (2005), Tweedles! (2006), The River of Crime (2006), The Voice of Midnight (2007), The Bunny Boy (2008), The Ughs! (2009), and Ten Little Piggies (a sneak peak at projects in the pipeline, released in 2009). Much of it, of course, was highly conceptual.