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The Residents - Meet The Residents CD (album) cover


The Residents



4.02 | 106 ratings

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4 stars Meeting The Residents for the first time is like encountering a gang of party crashers pretending to be drunk. Here they are on their debut album: lampshades on their heads, stumbling through the front door while performing an inebriated demolition of the Nancy Sinatra hit "These Shoes Were Made For Walkin'", in a willful attempt to disrupt your composure, upset your guests, and trample all over every acceptable notion of musical propriety.

The performances are rudimentary, at best. The production is lower than lo-fi. And the instrumentation is so basic it looks almost silly: amateur horns, primitive electronics, clattering percussion, and a cheap acoustic piano salvaged from the dusty basement of a nearby social hall.

None of it is played very well, but even at this early stage of the group's evolution there's an obvious integrity to their weirdness...if in fact there ever was an actual group. Sometimes I think The Residents advance the illusion of being a quartet only because that's the standard arrangement of a traditional rock band, as seen in their cheerfully desecrated portrait of the Fab Four on the album's original front cover.

The genius is in the assembly, applying what FRANK ZAPPA would have called a rigorous conceptual continuity to an otherwise inscrutable hodgepodge of private jokes, outré insanity, and adenoidal nursery school caterwauling. Don't be surprised by the rare moment of melodic beauty, in the ghostly piano interlude of "Rest Aria" and elsewhere. But the album works best when the band keeps its collective avant-garde tongue firmly in cheek, for example in the mock-operatic vaudeville of "Spotted Pinto Bean".

Side Two (of the original vinyl) is less effective because it takes itself a little more seriously, never the best strategy for a group of iconoclastic nut cases. But even here you'll find a startling preview of their upcoming anti-Top-40 masterpiece "Third Reich 'n Roll", in a subversive deconstruction of the 1968 Human Beinz chestnut "Nobody But Me". After introducing it as a turntable sing-along, the first verse is quickly sidetracked into a looping mantra that worms its way under your skin and into your DNA: a classic moment of Residential satire.

Forty-plus years later the album is still remarkably strange. But it was hardly unique in 1973, sharing a common thread of cultural nonconformity with other, more renowned outsiders like Zappa, CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, and the Dada crusaders of FAUST. To the uninitiated this embryonic effort can sound (in a good way) like dirty fingernails scraped down a blackboard, almost literally in a song like "Skratz". But as The Residents themselves all but plead in the original liner notes, "Listen closely to the record. Let the strangeness wear off through a couple of plays. Soon you too will whistle the merry tunes..."

...Or else run screaming headlong into the nearest brick wall, they might have added. Either reaction is perfectly acceptable.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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