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The Residents - Is Anybody Out There? CD (album) cover


The Residents


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3 stars The Bunny Boy project poses an interesting dilemma for the reviewer, even more so than most of the Residents' work. The problem here is that this particular project involves a multi-episode internet drama series, an album of music based around the series, an album of music used in the series, an album of unused pieces, and a DVD consisting of a newly edited version of the original series, all of which act as parts for a larger (but deliberately holey) whole. What, then, is the work one is actually reviewing?

The entire project revolves around a man, seemingly named Roger, who is using the internet to try and find his lost brother Harvey. Roger was victim of some kind of accident while in Greece (the details of this, though, are vague), and the appeals he makes over the web become increasingly disturbed. We eventually see him donning a full body bunny costume, as if this will somehow help him in his plea. When the series originally ran online, viewers could contact Roger by email to help him find Harvey, and Roger would respond back to you (giving you a chance, perhaps, to actually communicate with a central Resident?). Along the way, Roger starting selling objects from the room he was broadcasting from so that he could get money to go to Arkansas to find Harvey. One could actually go to ebay and buy cheap little knickknacks to "help" Roger. He also went on tour with the Residents to help make his case and earn money. So, ebay and the Residents' tour were also part of the larger narrative (that is, the tour wasn't strictly in support of the album but yet another part of the big story). So what is the work one is actually reviewing?

The block you have just read (and the one you are reading now) will reappear in each review I am offering of each element of the Bunny Boy project. This boilerplate, meant to help connect everything, will be followed by a segment that focuses on what the separate element adds. Overall, what should be recognized is that with the Bunny Boy series, the Residents have pushed the idea of the concept album into a radical new direction in a way that was truly multimedia but that also tripped the lines between art and reality, artist and audience.

"Is Anybody Out There?" is the DVD part of the project, and in some ways is the hardest part of this batch to review for this website. Given that the video series originally seen on the internet forms the heart or backbone of the whole project, this fully assembled version of the story makes it a vital element, if you really want to see the big bunny picture. Yet, this is a review for a music website, not a film/art project review site. The music used in the video series can be found on "Postcards from Patmos," so check that out if you want to focus on the soundtrack. Alternately one could go online, find the original cycle and watch it there. What the DVD does, and does well, is give the original fragmented videos the feeling of a coherent narrative whole, and it makes for a quite moving experience, strange, darkly humorous and touching. The DVD also adds filmed clips of Roger on tour with the Residents, which the original cycle did not. It's also worth noting that the DVD drops the ending of the original, which changes the feel and meaning of the full narrative. [I don't want to spoil anything and just recommend viewing both to see what you think about the changes.]

In short, a vital part of the project, but more video art than musical project. Make of that what you will.

Overall project: 4; this DVD: 3.

Also see: The Bunny Boy, Postcards from Patmos and Arkansas.

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Posted Friday, January 29, 2010 | Review Permalink

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