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The Residents - WB:RMX CD (album) cover


The Residents



4.01 | 20 ratings

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3 stars If you believe the Creation Myth of The Residents, you'll appreciate the value of these recordings, supposedly representing some of the earliest (ersatz) music ever created by those anonymous screwballs from San Mateo, California: hometown heroes to this native-son-in-exile from the same Bay Area suburb. The original 'album', a dense collage of amateur avant-rock satire and obscure private jokes, was sent unsolicited to Warner Bros. Records in 1971, where it was (understandably) rejected and returned to the unknown sender, addressed by necessity merely to 'Residents'. And thus a new ensemble was suddenly baptized.

A little skepticism is encouraged here, if only because the source of the story is the band itself. But thirty-plus years later the legendary Warner Bros. album was finally allowed a legitimate release, albeit after a radical 21st century facelift combining additional dance beats, new instrumentation, and merciless editing. A fossil of the original recording can be glimpsed in places, but most of the earlier (pseudo) music was effectively camouflaged in the remix, often to its benefit.

On its own terms the new version actually works very well, being surprisingly accessible on top but, like most of The Residents' catalogue, predictably weird under the skin. And yet I would accuse the Eyeballs of myopia here. They missed an opportunity to present at least a portion of the raw, original tapes, perhaps as an archival bonus track for comparison purposes. The official excuse was their embarrassment over the abysmal sound quality and primitive musicianship, but my own suspicions revolve around legal issues with ex-bandmates, keeping in mind the fact that the original 'album' was produced before a band even existed.

The unedited tapes, first recorded on cheap reel-to-reel audio equipment, still exist in cyberland, bootlegged from extremely rare indie radio broadcasts. And they are indeed cruder than you can possibly imagine. But something uniquely Residential didn't quite survive the high-tech surgery, and the dynamic update shows evidence of retroactive sanitation, perhaps with good reason. In these conservative times not even a fringe group like The Residents could get away with naming a song 'Every Day I Masturbate on a Merican Fag' (the title on the remix eliminates the onanism). Along with songs like 'Snot and Feces' (included from the original) and 'Stuffed Genital' (not), you can plainly see where their juvenile heads were at in 1971.

But the iconoclastic creativity and Zappa-influenced cultural sabotage that would become an early Residents hallmark was already incubating in these sessions. A generation later, the '04 remix provided a pinhole glimpse at what must have been a heady time of undisciplined freedom for the embryonic quartet, still vivid even with the digital bandages in place. But I wouldn't expect a similar revision of the notorious 'Baby Sex' tapes any time soon.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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