The Residents chose to create something genuinely challenging and threatening. They’re the true alternative. You don’t have to like them, but you should be glad they’re here
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Where do you start with The Residents? If you’re in on the joke/concept, you’ll grab this lovingly presented and knowledgeably annotated reissue with both hands. If you pick it up because you’re merely curious, or you were attracted to the iconoclastic defacement of the “Meet The Beatles” cover which adorns it, you may need to strap yourself in very tight and tell Mom and Dad where you’re going. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
There’s been a lot written about The Residents and the amazing thing is that none of it might be true. Fiercely protective of their anonymity, the band have kept their identities secret since their formation in 1969, so who knows – the 2017 version of the band may contain all or none of the original members, a model which was accidentally copied by The Sugababes.Cherry Red Records have spiffed up the original album, grafted on a bunch of rare and unreleased material and thoughtfully included a stereo version of the rather murky original pressing. Not that hi-fidelity was uppermost on the minds of the creators of this, er, music.
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Originally released in 1974, the year which gave us “461 Ocean Boulevard”, “Diamond Dogs” and the first Kiss album, “Meet The Residents” stood out somewhat. Rock music was in its third decade and the rot was setting in for some musicians, who thought it was time to do something else. For The Residents, that “something else” was to deconstruct the genre and try to stick it back together with gaffa tape and superglue. Very rarely does a recognisable tune appear for more than a few seconds on the record, although “Infant Tango” sounds a little like Captain Beefheart jamming with James Brown’s band whilst everyone was on tranquilisers. Snippets of melody pop out at odd angles, only to be submerged by enthusiastically played but woefully inaccurate percussion, pounded piano chords and minimalistic horn blasts. It’s sort of brilliant. The beauty of this album is that nothing sticks around long enough to get boring. The parping brass section of the Christmas themed “Seasoned Greetings” is replaced by what could be a distorted guitar played in a bath and the sound of a metal tea tray being hit with a stick. It twists and turns, slows down and speeds up, leaving the listeners slightly baffled, but definitely not bored. I dare you to play this when you’re having Christmas dinner with the family. If you want something a little more danceable, then check out the primitive sample of The Human Beanz “Nobody But Me” which makes up part of “N-Er-Gee (Crisis Blues)”. You get about 30 seconds of the tune before it mutates into a repeated loop, overlaid with ugly fuzztoned guitar and Lord only knows what else. But the thing is – if you can tune your brain to The Residents frequency, it all seems to make sense. Eventually.
“Meet The Residents” is the sound of the end of Rock and Roll. All the elements are there, but bolted together in a weird, unwieldy new shape. The musicians saw no point in trying to compete with The Eagles or Led Zeppelin or The Bay City Rollers, so they did exactly what they wanted to do. Three years after this album, Punk bands were branded as “the future” by smoking and swearing a bit, playing slightly faster and turning up the distortion on their guitars. The Residents chose to create something genuinely challenging and threatening. They’re the true alternative. You don’t have to like them, but you should be glad they’re here.
“Meet The Residents” is available from Jan 19th via Cherry Red Records
The full track listing for the album is as follows…