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The Residents - The Snakey Wake CD (album) cover


The Residents



3.22 | 9 ratings

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3 stars Philip Lithman (Snakefinger) was the fifth Beatle of the Residents for much of the 1970s and 1980s. (Would that make him the fifth Resident, second, seventeenth or hundredth?) Never an official member of the band, his guitar appears on a healthy number of the singles and albums, and did some great stuff on his own as well. One of rock guitar's great unsung legends, Snakefinger developed a unique style that could be equally bizarre, offputting and beautiful. Check out the guitar on "The Spot" and "Magic and Ecstasy," for instance, though my favorite moment is his freakschmaltz solo on "Serenade for Missy" from the Residents' "The Tunes of Two Cities." Deliberately playing on cheap guitars, he could be so sloppy and wrong, but so right and so adventurous, and a good break from the polished and scale-obsessed set.

The Residents were ready to work with Snakefinger again in 1987 on their project "God in Three Persons," when they learned he had died of a heart attack while on tour with his band, The Vestal Virgins. "The Snakey Wake" is their tribute to their dear friend. The CD, originally the second release from Uncle Willie's Eyeball Buddies fan club, consists of one long track called "Lament," and was the music they played at their funeral party. Opening with the sound of a train moving on the rails, the track clatter becomes the rhythm riding under their rendition of Hank Williams's "Six More Miles to the Graveyard," ending with the line, "the best friend I ever had." The long, pulsing song also consists of moving variations on various English Renaissance laments. By the end, the singing Resident breaks into banshee keening in their invented language of Mohelmot. The CD represents a studio version of the music they played at the wake, but live excerpts from the original have also appeared on "Liver Music" and "Kettles of Fish."

A dramatic and moving tribute to a truly innovative musician.

questionsneverknown | 3/5 |


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