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The Residents - The Bunny Boy CD (album) cover

THE BUNNY BOY

The Residents

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.71 | 20 ratings

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The Hemulen
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars First of all, I'm not a Residents fanatic. I've only heard a handful of their albums and this is the first I've gotten round to buying on CD. If you're in a similar situation and have been flirting with the idea of getting this album. then my advice to you is simple: Get it. Right now. There has never been a better chance in recent years of getting into this band and their all-encompassing approach to music-making.

I'll try to limit most of this review to discussing the music presented on this album itself, but I must make a brief mention of its wider context. The Bunny Boy is far from just a collection of new Residents songs. It's an unashamed concept album with a lengthy (and still ongoing, as I write this) online video series revolving around the titular and enigmatic character and his search for his brother, who has mysteriously disappeared. The story is bleak, funny, heart-wrenching and puzzling in roughly equal measure, and there is really little point in listening to this album without also investing some time in watching the videos in order to better understand the lyrical content of the songs.

So musically, how does this album compare to the likes of Duck Stab, Eskimo, The Commercial Album, etc.? In my opinion, really rather well. It kicks off with a handful of tunes that demonstrate exactly where the band has come from and where they're heading - twisted little pop tunes (yes, this is without question a "poppy" album at times - those after sumptuous prog epics and self-indulgent, twiddly solos are strongly advised to look elsewhere), saturated with eerie keyboards, pulsing electronic beats, sinister vocals and stark, atmospheric guitars.

As with all good pop tunes, they're maddeningly catchy. Spin this album a couple of times and you'll be lucky to have more than a few minutes a day without one of these songs whirling round your head, providing an unsettling soundtrack to your every mundane action.

"Boxes of Armageddon" gets things off to almost too good a start - an infectious tune, wonderfully arranged with menacing horns and a sustained, guitar-growl - it sets such a high benchmark that on my first few listens I felt the remainder of the album simply never matched it. I've since revised this opinion, but it remains a superb opening track and it's still pretty hard to beat.

Every track from "Rabbit Habit" through to "Fever Dreams" works like a charm and will delight casual and obsessive Residents fans alike. A special mention must go, at this point, to "Pictures From a Little Girl" which boasts some of the Residents most blatant lyrics to date, neatly exposing the album's themes like some sort of psychotic checklist: Fear, terror, panic and doom.

Following this initial run of outstanding tracks, the album settles into a far more ambient sort of groove. The instrumental "I Like Black" is solid and just as infectious as the songs that precede it, but amidst an album of ideas, theatricality and puzzles the very fact that it's instrumental makes it seem rather like an unfinished song - lacking the vocals that would anchor it to the rest of the album.

The remainder of the album is as stuffed with wonderful tunes as the opening songs (too many to go through in detail, alas) but it's all of an increasingly downbeat nature. Especially when listened to with the benefit of knowing the story (through the videos and/or tour), it's hard not to be a little moved by some of the songs featured here, which is surprising, to me at least. I've often been amused and shocked by the Residents, but to be genuinely touched by them is a new, intriguing and surprisingly welcome experience.

All in all, this is a very, very good album, and were it hailing from an unknown band with only an EP or two under their belts this would undoubtedly be a glowing five-star review. As it stands, this CD (divorced from the other elements of the project), isn't so musically innovative, by The Residents' standards at least.

This album, and all that goes with it, has gotten me far more interested and excited in The Residents as they are now than any of their previous recent efforts ever could. Despite their bewildering back-catalogue, there's never been a better time to get into this band.

The Hemulen | 4/5 |

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