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The Residents - Commercial Album CD (album) cover

COMMERCIAL ALBUM

The Residents

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.65 | 57 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Commercial Album' - The Residents (8/10)

There haven't been too many bands who are quite as puzzling as The Residents. Their music usually aims at deconstructing pop music, turning it into something strange, campy, and undeniably terrifying. This attempt to break down the parts of popular music culminates in the 'Commercial Album', one of their most well-known and regarded works. An album composed of dozens of one-minute ditties, The Residents are certainly pulling off a big gimmick with this, but their intelligence as artists enables them to turn a bad joke into a very valid and (at times) disturbing piece of music.

As the title suggests, The Residents here are making a commentary on popular, radio- friendly music, and satirize it to death. What we are left with are a bunch of short songs that barely crack the one minute mark, throwing an idea or two at the listening and then wandering off. A listener is left to draw their own conclusions and interpretations about this choice of album structure. 'Commercial Album's gimmicky structure actually works on a musical level as well. While none of these songs ever feel developed or complete, the short length of the songs means that there is a constant flow of new ideas, and some of these little snippets are very good. They almost all rely on simple melodies, and many of these pieces even use variations of the same theme. At times, this leads to a repetitious and tiring experience, but there is a great variety to the sounds and textures that the band uses. It is difficult to describe, but many of these sound like experimental elevator music, generally peppy and simplistic, but there is almost always a musical line that does not sit right, giving the music a twisted face, despite the catchiness of these ditties.

Paired with these one minute quips are short stories, as told through the lyrics. Like the rest of The Residents' music, the singing is not particularly skilled from a technical perspective, but it evokes feeling and a morbid sense of intrigue. The lyrics are very simple structurally, yet surprisingly dark and twisted. In a verse or two, they tell a short anecdote; some personal favourites include a jingle about a man who falls into depression after his wife leaves him ('Troubled Old Man') and a sad commentary on isolation ('Loneliness'). The lyrics are generally incredibly simple, and there are only a couple of different poetic structures the band uses throughout, but they are effectively eerie.

The music first passed me as being shallow, but it is only deceptively so. Like all of The Residents' work, there is plenty of thought put into what they do here, although some of it may only succeed at puzzling a listener. The seemingly endless string of one minute songs does wear thin if I'm not in a perfect mood for it, but the band's profound commentary and success with creating something truly left-of-centre brings me to love the album, despite the campy approach with which they insist on making music with.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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