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The Residents


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The Residents Commercial Album album cover
3.64 | 90 ratings | 12 reviews | 29% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1980

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Easter Woman (1:03)
2. Perfect Love (1:03)
3. Picnic Boy (1:01)
4. End of Home (1:04)
5. Amber (1:02)
6. Japanese Watercolor (1:02)
7. Secrets (1:03)
8. Die in Terror (1:03)
9. Red Rider (1:02)
10. My Second Wife (1:02)
11. Floyd (1:03)
12. Suburban Bathers (1:04)
13. Dimples and Toes (1:03)
14. The Nameless Souls (1:04)
15. Love Leaks Out (1:04)
16. Act of Being Polite (1:03)
17. Medicine Man (1:04)
18. Tragic Bells (1:03)
19. Loss of Innocence (1:04)
20. The Simple Song (1:02)
21. Ups and Downs (1:04)
22. Possessions (1:03)
23. Give it to Someone Else (1:03)
24. Phantom (1:04)
25. Less Not More (1:03)
26. My Work is So Behind (1:04)
27. Birds in the Trees (1:04)
28. Handful of Desire (1:04)
29. Moisture (1:04)
30. Love Is... (1:03)
31. Troubled Man (1:04)
32. La La (1:04)
33. Loneliness (1:04)
34. Nice Old Man (1:04)
35. The Talk of Creatures (1:04)
36. Fingertips (1:04)
37. In Between Dreams (1:04)
38. Margaret Freeman (1:03)
39. The Coming of Crow (1:04)
40. When We Were Young (1:02)

Bonus tracks on the 1988 ESD CD:
41. Shut Up Shut Up (1:04)
42. And I Was Alone (1:05)
43. Theme For An American TV Show (1:27)
44. We're A Happy Family (1:11)
45. The Sleeper (2:58)
46. Boy In Love (2:57)
47. Diskomo (4:35)
48. Jailhouse Rock (3:08)
49. This Is A Man's Man's Man's World (3:45)
50. Hit The Road Jack (4:03)

Line-up / Musicians

- Chris Cutler / drums
- Fred Frith / guitar
- Don Jackovich / guest
- Snakefinger / guitar, violin, vocals
- Mud's Sis / guest
- Don Preston / synthesizer
- The Residents / arranger, composer, producer, writer
- Sandy Sandwich / guest

Releases information

- Released in 1980 on LP by Celluloid
- Released in 1980 on cassette by Celluloid
- Released in 1980 on LP by Missing Link
- Released in 1980 on cassette by Missing Link
- Released in 1980 on LP by Phonogram
- Released in 1980 on cassette by Phonogram
- Released in 1980 on LP by Pre
- Released in 1980 on LP by Ralph, first pressing of 15,000 copies with wrong song order and purple Ralph logo, second pressing with correct song order and green Ralph logo, third pressing with black vinyl and green label
- Released in 1980 on LP by RTC
- Released in 1987 on LP and CD by Torso
- Released in 1988 on LP by Ralph with green vinyl
- Released in 1988 on CD by East Side Digital
- Released in 1995 on CD by EuroRalph
- Released in 1997 on CD by Bomba in Japan
- Released in 1997 on CD by East Side Digital
- Released in 2004 on CD by Mute

Thanks to Retrovertigo for the addition
and to Evolver for the last updates
Edit this entry

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THE RESIDENTS Commercial Album ratings distribution

(90 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(44%)
Good, but non-essential (17%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

THE RESIDENTS Commercial Album reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
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.

Review by Rune2000
4 stars You just have to love a band that is as versatile and creative as the Resident! I never thought that it would be so demanding listening to 40 minutes of music in a row! My brain gets really tired after about 25 one-minute-songs and I often have to split up this album experience into a couple of separate listening sessions. Still it's a great album with lots of good but somewhat repetitive material.

Commercial Album is basically another the Resident experiment done right! One might argue that they had a few releases to practice on since both Meet The Residents and Duck Stab also features shorter catchy material. Still none of those albums went all-in as the band have done here. Every new track is a new experience of weird sounds and great catchy songwriting, among which Easter Woman, The Nameless Souls and Loneliness make it easily among my all time favorite performances from this band.

If you want to make this release sound even more repetitive then try playing each song three times in-a-row! According to the band it will make your experience feel more complete, but I personally gave up that thought after the first ten tracks.

***** star songs: Easter Woman (1:03) Perfect Love (1:03) Dimples And Toes (1:03) The Nameless Souls (1:04) Loneliness (1:04) Margaret Freeman (1:03)

**** star songs: Picnic Boy (1:01) End Of Home (1:04) Amber (1:02) Japanese Watercolor (1:02) Secrets (1:03) Die In Terror (1:03) Red Rider (1:02) My Second Wife (1:02) Floyd (1:03) Suburban Bathers (1:04) Love Leaks Out (1:04) Act Of Being Polite (1:03) Medicine Man (1:04) Tragic Bells (1:03) Loss Of Innocence (1:04) The Simple Song (1:02) Ups And Downs (1:04) Possessions (1:03) Give It To Someone Else (1:03) Phantom (1:04) Less Not More (1:03) My Work Is So Behind (1:04) Birds In The Trees (1:04) Handful Of Desire (1:04) Moisture (1:04) Love Is... (1:03) Troubled Man (1:04) La La (1:04) Nice Old Man (1:04) The Talk of Creatures (1:04) Fingertips (1:04) In Between Dreams (1:04) The Coming Of Crow (1:04) When We Were Young (1:02)

Total Rating: 4,15

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Despite the name, this is by no means a "commercial" sounding album. The concept is that pop music is a repetition of verse and chorus sections. By stripping the repetition out, a song can convey it's message in one minute, also the time of most TV commercials back when this album was originally conceived (since then, advertisers have pared that way down, cramming more inane advertisements into each minute).

This actually is a very fun album. Each one minute song (approximately) is a complete idea, and most are very good, in the Residents' weird, eerie, deranged way. And somehow, they have made this one of their most enjoyable and listenable albums.

The bonus tracks on the ESD CD add to the fun. Unlike most of the ESD releases, which add full EP and fan club releases, this one has singles and some tracks from the "Residue" collection. The evil rendition of Hit The Road Jack is a must.

Review by Dobermensch
3 stars This one's a real oddity and a half in the works by the Residents. 40 songs in 40 minutes, each one of which will leave you scratching your head in bewilderment with your face looking like you're smelling a basketful of dead fish. The vocals are full of crazy talk - punctuated with little nursery rhymes which pass off as tunes throughout this recording.

There are some super weird videos which accompany some of these one minute tunes which have to be seen to be believed. I'd recommend these to anyone who wants to see some David Lynch type strangeness.

Some of the keyboards sound absolutely rotten but seem to fit the parallel universe that the Residents inhabit. Most of this album is infuriatingly catchy and annoying at the same time. Almost guaranteed to leave you laughing out loud or chewing your carpet in frustration at the abruptness of which everything occurs.

There are no intros, outros or chorus whatsoever - but definite tunes on every track. What was nearly four stars is reduced to three due to its disjointed and fractal nature. Difficult to take in one sitting and at times downright irritating.

Review by Conor Fynes
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.

Review by historian9
4 stars I think if you want to get into RESIDENTS this is the album to start with, everything else just overwhelmed me with weirdness of this music. If it were always music, sometimes I can't describe what it is that I was listening.

The 40 one minute songs format is very friendly I think, and enough to explore interesting musical ideas which for a change are not always the in the usual dark mood, but they can get quite light and catchy. "Moisture" is an absolute favorite, and a classic if RESIDENTS ever had one to call it that, with a nice guitar solo by Snakefingers in the middle, it's catchy in a weird way despite being about a dead woman with moisture on her skin. "Amber" as well, it's an melodic song with female vocals, and it's beautiful, there isn't some acquired taste to go through to appreciate this one. "La La" is also an upbeat song.

Sure there are plenty of unsettling stuff as well, "Medicine Man" has a particularly creepy video but even the dark themed "Perfect Love" and "Act Of Being Polite" are as friendly as the RESIDENTS get to the average non-fans. At times when you're bored with music that makes sense and feel adventurous, get into the "Commercial Album" for a wild ride.

Review by HolyMoly
2 stars Like a lot of the Residents' albums up to that point, Commercial Album posits itself as a unique experiment in form - with music itself as the subject for examination and comment. Just as "Third Reich and Roll" was a collage of deconstructed pop covers, this album takes a similar potshot at the institution of pop music. 40 songs, each exactly a minute long, illustrating somewhat cynically that they have boiled pop music down to its essence by removing the repetition. I'll give them one thing, it gives a reviewer an easy topic for an opening paragraph. How novel, right?

Trouble is, the songs mostly stink. If these songs resembled pop music in any form, their effect might be stronger. But essentially, each song consists of: a bland keyboard-based melody repeated a couple of times, one verse of lyrics, and maybe a brief outro. After a strong start ("Easter Woman"), things get awfully tedious by around track 10. There are isolated highlights -- Fred Frith with a cool guitar break in "Moisture", "Amber" has a good melody all around, "Simple Song" is knowingly moronic -- but overall this is a classic case of form over substance.

I love the Residents, particularly their first 10 years (1974-1984), but this is my least favorite album from that bunch. It seems to get a lot of praise -- it came out at a time when the Residents were possibly at the peak of their "hip" popularity -- but I maintain that 40 mediocre 1 minute songs do not equal 20 decent 2 minute songs.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars What would happen if The Residents decided to take their music and attempt to make it pop? And then what if they decided to take out all of the repetition? What would happen? This album would happen. 40 songs all at just over 1 minute long. If you get the re-issue then you get more of the same in bonus tracks.

The Residents are so weird! That's Barbara Streisand and John Travolta's faces on the cover.

If this album sounds intriguing, then you will probably enjoy it.

I would love to elaborate more but that would mean I would be repeating myself. Not only that, but my one minute has elapsed. Feels incomplete right? There's your review.

Review by patrickq
3 stars Should The Commercial Album be judged as a concept album or a compilation of forty one-minute ditties? This dichotomy is problematic insofar as both of its parts are essentially the same; a compilation of ditties is the concept.

In the liner notes the band points out that (a) most pop songs consist of one minute of content repeated as verses and choruses, and (b) most advertising jingles are also one minute long. However, the songs on The Commercial Album aren't exactly earworms, and I think it's fair to say that few, if any, would have worked as jingles, whether in 1980 or today. While it's tempting to guess that the Residents intentionally made anti-pop songs, it seems more likely that they tried to create music that was, as they say, like most pop music - - i.e., that was catchy. In fact, a small number of songs, among them "Red Rider," "Easter Woman," and "Picnic Boy" (sung by Lene Lovich), are are somewhat tuneful and are, as seems typical of the Residents, twisted.

Overall, the tracks themselves seem to be the inevitable result of a (self-imposed) need to produce forty different one-minute pop songs. Thankfully, the group did not just throw together a few dozen songs over the weekend; apparently The Commercial Album was created over a one-year period. Nonetheless, around half of the songs sound like they were churned out to meet a quota.

So, three stars for a great idea, though only adequately executed.

(P.S. I strongly suggest The Commercial Album to fans of They Might Be Giants. It seems certain to me that the Residents, and specifically this album, must have been an influence on Flansburgh and Linnell.)

Latest members reviews

5 stars This is a minimalist music masterpiece. The Residents were so ahead of their time with this album. The Commercial album has an excellent concept, great little stories, and music that can make you say: Hum, what is this thing ? This is creepy. That were my first reactions listening to this album. ... (read more)

Report this review (#811165) | Posted by geneyesontle | Monday, August 27, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Yet each man kills the thing he loves, from all let this be heard. Some do it with a bitter look, some with a flattering word. The coward does it with a kiss, the brave man with the sword (Oscar Wilde) The Residents appear to have attempted a Reductio ad absurdum ploy here to break down the ... (read more)

Report this review (#170895) | Posted by ExittheLemming | Tuesday, May 13, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A after the release of Eskimo, the Residents decided to go try something a little bit different, somthing a little bit more, commercial. They made all the songs one the album one minute long as they figured that was the length of the average television commercial. Of course, it's nearly impossi ... (read more)

Report this review (#41059) | Posted by Spanky | Sunday, July 31, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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