Not that the Residents' discography is that easy to sort through in the first place, but here's a release where things become particularly confusing. Back in 1971, they recorded an album (actually, before they were officially the Residents) and sent it anonymously and unsolicited to Harve Halverstadt at Atlantic Records based on his association with noted musical outsider Captain Beefheart. Of course, the tape was rejected and returned to the band, care of "Residents, 20 Sycamore St., San Francisco," thus giving the band their famously anonymous moniker. But despite the future "success" of the Residents, the album remained unreleased. Fast forward 30-plus years to a time when the Residents were not only courting a newfound sense of accessibility with works like Demons Dance Alone and Wormwood, but they also seemed to be pondering their own mortality and ultimate place as artists, as evidenced by the Kettles of Fish live retrospective and a willingness to share actual personal details both there and in the Demons Dance Alone tour (while still maintaining anonymity, of course). In the midst of this, apparently the Residents decided to revisit the Warner Brothers Album, as it came to be called. But, when you're the Residents, a straight issuing of the original album seems tremendously uninspired, so in 2003, they took the original tracks and made a "dance mix" of the entire album. Now, anyone who has heard early Residents' material realizes that they were about as far from a dance band as any musical ensemble in the history of the world at that point. Which makes this remix all the more amazing in that they were able to take tapes that surely would be deemed completely unlistenable by most everyone, and craft a fun, accessible "dance" album out of them. Yes, many of the sounds are very strange, and often unplaceable. Yes, you hear the singing resident, sounding much as he has throughout their career, along with bleating, out-of-tune saxophones and deranged, near-yodeled vocals. But they somehow take these often-abrasive sounds and construct melodies and song forms that almost certainly weren't there in the first place. Or were they? That's part of the fun: you hear sound elements like string ensembles and bits off pop records that had to have been "sampled" (remember, this is 1971) along with other sounds/noises that are impossible to place, but one never knows whether the sound was tweaked and treated in 1971, or in 2003 (snatches of the Beatles and the I Love Lucy theme also appear in the murk). Then there are little details like the fact that the clapped-out rhythm that accompanies "A Merican Fag" sounds suspiciously like the Village People's "we want you, we want you" rhythm from "In the Navy," although "In the Navy" didn't appear until 1979. And how they manage to take the utterly inept sax playing of "Christmas Morning Photo," marry it to galloping beats of "Maggie's Farm," and make it catchy is anyone's guess. Such is the genius and mystery of the Residents. Very strange, very fun, and quite danceable, WB:RMX is a must-hear for fans.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Employing the same stress-scheme as Poe's "The Raven" throughout its 62 minutes, "God In Three Persons" is an extended work in "talking-blues" style for narrator, electronic instruments, and a chorus providing comments not to be found in the libretto — they sing production credits at the beginning, and lines like "something's coming, but not real soon," and "this is a sad part, oh, such a sad part". This surreal and yet directly delivered work is as lovingly human as it is comic with profound experience simply expressed...in short, an original masterpiece of American music, directly in the tradition of the Thomson-Stein and Robert Ashley operas. As in all Residents pieces, the voices are modified electronically and the musical elements are deceptively minimal—most of its 14 episodes have only two chords which, however, still manage to instantly produce the correct atmosphere (Phil Glass-like Wagnerian thirds for mythic import, tonic-dominant in triplets for 50's teenage love story, etc.). There are only passing riffs, more like comments, and the only melody in the whole piece is a wheezy organ quote of the standard doxology hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy (God in Three Persons)."The subject matter is, in part, the derivation of religious and other symbolic images from the naturally erotic... but that's only part of it. Please give this one a listen.
The Commercial Single was released to promote The Commercial Album. It was released in the United Kingdom and France and, despite being called a single, included eight songs: six songs from the album and two (unlisted) bonus tracks, all clocking in at one minute.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
The REZ WORLD CD compilation series is an idea that I have had in which from time to time I will be posting exclusive mixes that have been put together my myself. The CD's in this collection will usualy be themed and span the music of a certain time or era in the Residents body of work. The compilations will include music that has previously been released from actual Residents recordings as well as many never before released tracks, outtakes, rarities and oddities all from studio sessions and/or live performances. Each CD posted will include the front and back inlay artwork created by myself.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Sandwiched in between Third Reich and Roll, Eskimo, and The Commercial Album, Duck Stab/Buster & Glen hasn't always received the fanfare of other late-'70s Residents material. It's one of the few that isn't a concept album and probably the least experimental of the bunch. Still, it's quintessential Residents' rock — which is to say, it's like nothing else on the planet. Few of the songs last longer than a couple of minutes, and only a few instruments can be heard at any given time. Rather than relying on guitars, the Residents stick to the relatively primitive synthesizers and electronic gadgets of their time. Chorus chants on "Bach Is Dead" meet with a melody that sounds like a cross between a sixth grader playing recorder and someone scratching on a balloon. Snakefinger's nasally vocals fit in all too well with their high-pitched electronica, which then somehow merges with funereal marching percussion. It seems annoying and stupid at first, but over time you feel compelled to listen again and again. Such is the glory of the Residents!
Sunday, September 5, 2010
The story of the Talking Light piece is basically that of an older man who questions, not only decisions he made as a teenager, but also if the events he remembers from that time happened at all. "A dead infant clutching a ring with an inscription the teenager cannot read" is the stuff of dreams. The following stories in the show may or may not shed light on the inscription. Questions remain unanswered. The Residents study death, not as a horrific end, but as the ultimate question that we all ask while wondering if any of it is even real. This entry features part 2 of the live Talking Light performance that The Residents played at Ancienne Belgique in Brussels, Belgium on April 28th 2010. It includes the video footage of that show split into four individual parts.