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The Residents - Commercial Album CD (album) cover


The Residents



3.64 | 76 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars Welcome to the world of The Residents - their best album? At least there are 40 tracks to choose from. One minute long each - very compelling music.

I could end the review there as I have just described the album. But there is a lot to offer on this conceptual array of soundwaves. You may question whether they are songs, but if not what the heck are they? When is a song not a song? There is music, there are lyrics but it's unlike anything you will ever hear - perhaps early Devo meets Kraftwerk on acid. Before I go further I must apologise for repeating a lot of this info on My Commercial DVD review as its the same album with visuals but here we go.

The Residents' 'Commercial Album' is a 1980 experiment, ahead of its time in many ways, where every track was designed to run for a whole minute with a few seconds to spare, to emulate the feel and style of a commercial. Fast moving, no nonsense, quirky music, with little verses, to complement the surreal sounds is the order of the day. The original 4 clips were put together by the Residents known as 'One Minute Movies' and introduced me to their style at an early age. Since then I have been quite fascinated with their music and in particular the one minute tracks. Having watched the Commercial DVD featuring all these songs in a different order for some crazy reason only known to the band themselves, I must confess I am more a fan of the music then the visuals, although the two may be inseparable. The visuals are disturbing and unsettling on the senses and not at all pleasant, whereas the music is innovation and inspiring to the Nth degree. At times the music may resemble a kids toy dinky piano or a glockenspiel, at other times there is a dark wall of sound or low synthesizers with a real atmosphere of doom and gloom. Nothing is as it seems and none of the songs are related to each other, rather you hear a whole swag of snippets of songs. The album sounds like a sampler but these are the entire songs. The result is you just start enjoying the song and it ends abruptly without fanfare or apology. This is not as bad as it sounds because in contrast the songs you don't like are so short that it doesn't really matter.

To say that The Residents are an acquired taste is an understatement, as the music almost parodies itself and does not try to emulate the standard song structure, leaving little room for refrains or choruses, the whole thing is just a concept using some form of music to hang it on as a framework for some twisted thematic concept. Not everything works but as a whole its quite an experience albeit a morose one. The highlights of the album are as follows in no particular order:

Troubled Man (1:00) - The song grows on you with a nice little melody.

The Nameless Souls (1:00) - I like the song lyrics "she was just uncaring... she was just indifferent, what else could she do... I was just a stranger.... I was just uneasy what else could I do, we were just the nameless Souls that sit inside, wishing that we were someone on the outside, wishing that we were the ones on the outside, wishing that we weren't the ones who were stuck." Very cute ditty.

Amber (1:00) - cool melody - Is that Molly singing? "Life is just a situation, life is just a game, ..." then the make voice answers, "Amber was the autumn leaves and Amber was the skin, the sound of running horses early in the day." A nice song really, sounds like a demented Western.

Birds In the Trees (1:00) - A song over stuffed with shrilly sfx and a nasty deep vocal performance.

In Between Dreams (1:00) - a very bass heavy instrumental especially on keyboards that stab down without subtlety.

Act of Being Polite (1:00) - disturbing song and sonic bass is awesome. "I found her crying in the morning sitting in a chair, she was wrapping something up and wrapping it with care, I did not mean to hurt her when I fell asleep last night, I was just exhausted from the act of being polite." Another tale of unrequited love.

My Second Wife (1:00) - Who knows what happened to the first.... The instrumental is weird and ethereal, even featuring a crowd cheering.

Loneliness (1:00) - a real fan favourite as it's a good song about isolation or alienation.

Die In Terror (1:00) - sounds nasty by the title but really a morbid minimalist attack on a form of music, the lyrics are inaudible, thankfully.

Suburban Bathers (1:00) - The music is sweeping and sporadic, very child like.

Medicine Man (1:00) - Intermittent beat and irregular metrical shifts highlight this instrumental.

And I Was Alone (1:00) - This is an instrumental highlight with excellent music, very eerie.

Tragic Bells (1:00) - Lots of chimes with song lyrics "Tragic Bells are ringing for me.... don't know when it will end..."

Loss of Innocence (1:00) - a good attempt at a song.

Ups and Downs (1:00) - The music is compelling with off kilter strangled singing. I like the zaps at the end. It seems to collapse.

Love Is... (1:00) - a very unsettling song.

Less Not More (1:00) - heavily percussive and surreal sound.

Picnic Boy (1:00) - Nice. Sounds like Lene Lovich is singing. Actually I found out from the credits it IS Lene Lovich singing and she does a comparable job too.

The Simple Song (1:00) - The sound is Kraftwerk gone beserk. Childish and simple "We are simple, you are simple, like this simple tune... We are simple, you are simple, like this simple tune..."

Perfect Love (1:00) - Fantastic song with great melody. "There's something I must tell you, there's something I must say, the only really perfect love is one that gets away." The vocals sound indifferent as if he has no interest in singing, but it works well.

Secrets (1:00) -The song is similar in melody and style to The Simple Song.

Japanese Watercolor (1:00) - Oriental influences abound creating strange music with Eastern influences. Great instrumental.

End of Home (1:00) - Very good song with excellent well executed synth.

Fingertips (1:00) - This one actually sounds like music, with some cool guitar licks, commercial indeed!

Phantom (1:00) - The best instrumental on the album. A dark, brooding majestic affair.

The Coming of the Crow (1:00) - An instrumental where the music is creepy with angular jangly guitar and irregular drums.

Dimples and Toes (1:00) - Very disjointed, erratic, jaunty music without drums and well sung. "She is attractive but very restrained..."

Moisture (1:00) - A classic track, my favourite with very cool melody and lyrics that are enigmatic. "Someone saw a stranger there with moisture on her lips, and it was also seen upon her arms and on her hips, no one knows exactly who she was or how she died, but when they opened up her purse they found a snail inside."

Give It To Someone Else (1:00) - The singing on this is great, very nasal like 'It's a Man's World'. And those lyrics "Squirming just a little bit... the sound of slapping skin... " What? Innovative music enhances this. Another definitive highlight, reminds me of Primus.

La La (1:00) - Upbeat music for a change of pace.

Nice Old Man (1:00) - Quirky song about a nice old man.

Red Rider (1:00) - This song has an excellent rhythm driving it and some excellent music. "Cellar doors are open but the stones were out that night, the light reflected from the leaves the sky was still too bright, I saw her passing as the wind was rising in the air, she rode upon a red bicycle and she had red hair". When We Were Young (1:00) - The music is more accessible on this one and quite angelic.

Shut Up Shut Up (1:00) -The song is very catchy featuring cute little screams and a heavy guitar plucked from hell.

The Residents creed is ? to experiment with music as an art form rather than an accessible entertaining form, as they are not concerned with appeasing or pleasing the masses. The music is catchy and grows on you like a form of osmosis and you tend to remember each track the more you hear it. I know many of these by heart now but its a weird experience at first hearing one small snippet of music after another, because none of it is related but is rather a patchwork, a roll on musical deodorant of sounds and styles that you put on but will never get out of your system. Once you are exposed to these innovative conceptual artists you may never listen to music the same way again. It certainly will create a topic of conversation. Ferociously original, alienated music, difficult to grasp, but unforgettable. 4 stars.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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