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The Residents



3.96 | 114 ratings

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4 stars Confusing grace with outer space: a Rock Opera from Mars

This is easily one of the strangest albums I've ever heard. It's hard to recall exactly what my initial feelings were when I first heard it, as a lot of the strangeness has sunk in and feels more natural now. But I do remember that I was taking an afternoon nap when I first put it on, and I remember that somehow the warped dream logic of this album made perfect sense when I was half asleep. It's the kind of "cool dream" that I'm always hoping to have - when I have the occasion to nap in the afternoon, I will often choose my music carefully, looking for something that might give me the same effect as this album did all those years ago.

The unique history of this album has already been covered in other reviews, but the important thing to remember is that this album was initially created with no intention of being released - not because it sucks (it doesn't), but because they wanted to see how it affected the process of creation.

The result is quite different from anything else the Residents have ever released. While their other early albums have a random, anarchic anything-anytime-anywhere feel to them, this album is strangely symphonic in nature - structured like a concept album/rock opera, with lengthy tracks featuring recurring characters and an ostensible story line. But the beauty of it is, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Ugly noise suddenly gives way to touchingly beautiful music, challenging any ideas that these guys don't know what they're doing. Lyric lines of total random nonsense suddenly give way to a really emotionally resonant lyric that make you think that maybe there IS something going on here. Just when you think the whole project's gone off the musical deep end, it brings you back in with a reprise of an earlier musical theme (which you might have originally thought was just random noise the first time around) - all executed as if they accidentally came up with all this.

It's rarely pleasant to listen to, but the way this album walks a tightrope between total chaos and total order is really quite fascinating. There are four lengthy tracks followed by a brief instrumental epilogue, and the four lengthy tracks each go through several movements, establishing the occasional strong musical theme, bringing in spoken voices, dissonant group unison vocals, and the ridiculously-voiced "porcupine" character. Lots of cheap keyboards, pianos, clangy percussion, and tape effects, all servicing a total wack fest of a concept, and somehow making it sound Important.

Very close to a 5 here, but it's a little too rough around the edges (to put it mildly) to deserve "masterpiece" status.

HolyMoly | 4/5 |


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