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The Residents - Meet The Residents CD (album) cover


The Residents



4.02 | 106 ratings

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5 stars This is one of the first times I have really felt a review was truly necessary for me to make. In the others, usually what I think has already been said by many others; this time, I am setting aside social injustice. Two reviews (at the time this was originally written)? What is that? Come on...

AN IMPORTANT NOTICE: There are at least TWO version of this album out there. I myself own the Euro Ralph 2003 Stereo Version and the East Side Digital 1987 Mono Version; this review is for the Stereo Version. The Mono Version includes some additional music CUT OUT of the Stereo Version, but slightly lower production value. All in all, I recommend BOTH versions - they are quite distinct - but the Stereo one is probably better to start out with.

Anyway, most describe this as being "indescribable" or "not explainable" as if it exists in its own universe all on its own. But although the music is certainly "different" and seemingly "influence-less", I think that The Residents, anonymous they may be, are not as godly or peerless as they may appear. In reality, this album sounds to me like the ultimate crystallization of a group of four (or more, or less, who knows?) friends that decided to make an album of their own, from their own sources, and using what they have to do it. When listening to it (and especially even earlier Residents recordings, like "Baby Sex" and "The Warner Bros. Album"), I am reminded of my own stupid home recordings with friends (in fact, just today, while spinning this album, my dad commented "Is that you singing there?"). Of course, The Residents had much more time, dedication, and resources than I do, and you can hear their sound evolve MASSIVELY from the incoherent, half-baked songs on "The Warner Bros. Album" to this masterpiece. Really it all makes sense when you hear their early unreleased work, which is probably why they have gone to such great lengths to prevent the release of that material.

Really "Meet the Residents" is something like my non-musician friends and I (the only musician of the group) would create if isolated for a year or so with only our instruments and recording devices. And that's key: what The Residents lack in talent and ability, they make up for in dedication and determination. The songs and parts on this album are not difficult by any means: the arrangement and thought put into each, however, make them mind-bogglingly complex. This is the opposite of Captain Beefheart's "Trout Mask Replica" isolationist masterpiece; that album featured brilliant musicians all working toward a goal with an extremely limited and set number of instruments, under a single guiding personality. Much like Yes, The Magic Band sought to use only what they could use live (in fact "Trout Mask" was recorded pretty much entirely live). The Residents, instead, wrote each of these arrangements with a swollen Eye towards detail, then promptly forgot what they did and what they used, in accordance with their "Theory of Obscurity": when performed live, these songs never sound anything like the originals (sadly, they are often simplified & mediocre).

On the subject of instrumentation, The Residents utilize whatever seems to be within reach. Acoustic piano is especially apparent, as are saxophones and other wind instruments (de-tuned for full-blast dissonance in key places), various percussion devices (it almost seems like they purchased half of a drum kit and then ran out of money), tape effects used as a percussion substitute, and, most strange, guitar and bass (only present on "Infant Tango" and "Seasoned Greetings", and even then only sparsely).

The album begins beautifully. A cover of "Boots [are made for walking]" puts their worst foot forward, with nothing more than incoherent vocals, squeaking saxes, a thumb piano, and a cheesy call-and-response. It fades into an altered repetition of the last verse of the song that doesn't match. Truly beauty at its finest - this foreshadows their magnum opus, "Third Reich n' Roll".

The first six songs string together into a suite, with "Numb Erone" fading in from "Boots", utilizing three harmonizing piano parts to make for a fine instrumental that moves from 4/4 to 3/4 halfway through. The piano that is used sounds like it is in serious need of repair; it buzzes and clicks the whole way through.Truthfully, though, it's what makes the song good - the sheerness of the whole thing is wonderfully refreshing.

The buzzing piano part segues into "Guylum Bardot", where it continues to be pounded as wind instruments enter the mix, creating a second melody. Now, anyone in their right mind would get rid of the piano, but this is The Residents; they keep the piano and integrate it fully, limping along in the background. Over this they proceed to lay down a two-person vocal harmony - completely monotone. Really quite complex.

"Breath and Width" is probably the least intriguing section of the suite, featuring unidentifiable tape effects that sound like a fax machine or a furiously upset guitar run through a shredder, accompanied by soothing female vocals, slowly falling out of time with the rest of the music and ending with what would normally be an outtake of laughter.

"Consuelo's Departure" continues with another wind instrument, tape effects- percussion, and piano instrumental, which is joined by a slightly out-of-tune vocal rendition of the theme by a resident with a thick Southern accent (possibly The Residents' strangest attribute - they're from the South!), and transforms into their short opus, "Smelly Tongues". Unidentifiable tape loops, a simple riff, set to "screech" on the amp, and some lounge vocals make this the catchiest bit yet.

After the suite, they focus on longer, arranged and largely instrumental pieces. "Rest Aria" is entirely instrumental, making extensive use of a sizable amount of wind instruments (sax, clarinet, trumpets, bassoon, and/or something) in sparse arrangements, with a prominent piano and tuned percussion. The piece is INCREDIBLY accomplished for such non-musicians: the pianist and saxophonist especially seem to have become passably good at their instruments (i.e., about as good as I can do on them).

"Skratz" stands out, an intriguing attempt at a true "pop" song. One big difference though: the instrumentation is hazily in the background, the vocals are schizophrenic and muddled, the only percussion accompaniment is a hi-hat staggering in the foreground, and the general effect of listening to it the first time is like hearing fingernails on the chalkboard. Okay, so maybe more than one difference.

"Spotted Pinto Bean" is a pseudo-operatic, over-dramatized and very "creatively edited" number with a chorus of female vocalists accompanying a solo virtuosic lounge-style piano for much of the piece. The quick-cut editing made me suspicious at first, but now I accept it as a wonderful experiment in tape manipulation of perceived environment.

"Infant Tango" marks the appearance of two strange instruments: bass and guitar. Truly unexpected. It begins with a grungy vocal and wah-wah guitar, building up into a full blown sax dissonance fest, mocking "THE" traditional funk melody (archetype). Then it goes into yet another arranged instrumental section with piano and saxes. Really wonderful, and very charming.

Perhaps most exemplary of the style of the longer tracks on "Meet the Residents" is "Seasoned Greetings". It begins very department store-like (an AWESOME descriptive term), but soon becomes another wah-wah guitar, sax, and piano instrumental much like the latter half of "Infant Tango", before extending some holiday greetings to the family. I love you too.

"N-er-Gee (Crisis Blues)" is the most piano-banging tune I have ever heard. It is deeply refreshing to hear. A mentally deficient protagonist introduces us to the difficulties of the Christmas season, then proceeds to lay it all down for us on his piano, cluster-chord-with-first style. Then, he decides to put on a surf-rock record and sing along. But the record begins to skip, but no matter: The Residents make the skipping record a musical piece all in itself! Really trippy, too. After another instrumental featuring various tuned percussion instruments and a recorder, the real piano-crunching begins. Run for cover.

The album ends appropriately: all members singing against a backdrop of nothing, "Go home America. Fifty five'll do." (Strangely, this melody is reprised at the very beginning of the album, in barely audible and wordless form) What does it mean? Probably nothing.

Okay, so I changed my mind pretty fast with this one. I originally gave this 4 stars because it "lacked resonance" - but what the hell. It's just very good, refreshing, and fun to hear such irresponsible deconstruction of convention with such disregard for good taste. One must wait until their later work before they decided to do anything with a point outside of doing what they love (although most would say they went to far with THAT, too), but hey, who cares? 5 stars. BUY IT.

penguindf12 | 5/5 |


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