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The Residents - Not Available CD (album) cover


The Residents



3.96 | 114 ratings

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5 stars With no apologies and great enthusiasm, I give "Not Available" 5 stars. Let me just say that I believe these noble 5's should be doled out slowly, carefully and thoughtfully. Following Progarchives' own criteria, I want to make the case that this is an album every prog fan should own. Which isn't the same thing as saying that everyone will like it. Many people, if not most, will not. But this is truly experimental, progressive music, and I think it is one of the finest prog products to be dropped into our universe.

According to Residential folklore, "Not Available" was the second official LP by the Residents (after "Meet the Residents"). It was ostensibly created on the grounds of the "Theory of Obscurity," which stipulated that the artists could develop a work with no audience in mind; no worries of accessibility or sales should get in the way of what the artists wanted to create. The folklore continues that because the Residents were so late in turning over "Eskimo," Ralph Records or the Cryptic Corporation dug in the archives and released "Not Available" to fill in the gap in the release schedule. Because the Residents themselves hadn't chosen to take this action (insert skeptical cough here), there was no violation of the intention behind the recording of "Not Available." Most fans will tell you that the music found here sure doesn't sound like something that would have come fresh off the heels of "Santa Dog" or "Meet the Residents"; the developments that emerged on albums like "Fingerprince" and "Duck Stab" are fully in force here. Still, most fans will also tell you that they file away "Not Available" as if it were the second album. Some things are sacred don't you know.

Whether you buy the Theory of Obscurity business or not, this is far out music?music that tries to go as far out as possible. Consisting of four songs?"Edweena," "The Making of a Soul," "Ship's A'Going Down" and "Never Known Questions"?plus an epilogue, it does feel all of a piece, or at least of one constant mood and atmosphere. There are the portents of a concept album, since there are repeating characters (like Edweena and her pet porcupine) and themes, but this is not a linear concept album; it skews at Dadaistic angles and tells it tales in Absurdist rhymes. You know you are being told something, but the persons trying to tell you their story have locked you in a room and they keep asking you questions in a language you don't understand. "Strangers have left on longer trains before!" What does that mean? "Can two be more than three?" Is that a good question? A dumb question? What do these people want from me?

Everything about this album feels truly alien. Wailing horns soar against primitive pianobar music, but it's not the blues, it's not jazz. What the hell is it? When I first heard this, lo those many years ago, I had never heard anything like it?and I still feel its novel impact with every listen today. After thousands of listens, it's still like finding a crack in the wall of your apartment you never noticed before, one that opens out into a whole other dimension of reality you didn't know existed. And this is what makes this a true classic of progressive music for me. Sure, this is not progressive in the vein of the symphonic sub-genre (a sub-genre I dearly love); that is, this is clearly not about licks, chops, scales and proficiency. This is about pushing the boat out and exploring new territories. It is that fearless journeying into the unknown. While that mission defines the Residents' terrain, I think no album of theirs displays this spirit better than "Not Available." It is not an album that is ever in the background. When it is on, it takes over and permeates the world, spreading a blissful discomfort that is the albumen of innovation.

This is my "Revolver," my "Pet Sounds," my "Selling England by the Pound," my "Close to the Edge," my "Dark Side of the Moon," my "OK Computer," my . . . you get the picture.

A five-star masterpiece like no other. No apologies.

questionsneverknown | 5/5 |


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