Tuesday, May 18, 2010
The Residents - Meet The Residents (1974)
And so with the childish vandalism of a classic Beatles album cover, the world was introduced to the one of the strangest musical acts in history. The amazing thing about the Residents is that after more than thirty years of performing and recording, almost nothing is known about them. They have stubbornly maintained their anonymity, no one knows their names and they consistently perform disguised in large eyeball masks. The sleeve notes tell a long and rambling story about the band's formation that I'm sure is utter nonsense.
There have been many great Residents albums over the years, but this, their debut, remains my favorite. After a few albums they would start relying heavily on synthesizers, which I always felt made their music seem cheaper and less authentic. Not so here, with the inexpert pounding of out of tune pianos, squawking horns and various non-musical sound effects dominating the proceedings.
The album almost plays like one extended song, drifting from one idea to the next with no sense of direction or purpose. The lyrics are generally of the absurdist variety and in all probability have no meaning whatsoever (song titles like "Smelly Tongues" and "Spotted Pinto Bean" should make that clear enough) and are sung alternately by women who sound like they know what they're doing and men who don't.
Non sequiturs abound and just when you think the band is trying to be taken seriously (the oddly beautiful "Rest Aria") they put on a record of the sixties classic "Nobody But Me" (by the Human Beinz) and start singing along in a silly voice. Worth special mention is the abbreviated cover version of "These Boots are Made For Walking" that begins the record. I wonder what Nancy Sinatra would think.
At the end of the day, it's a record that is so stupid, so amateurish and so unlike anything else you've ever heard that it's hard not to love it. It's rare that I make it through a whole listening without laughing out loud. While the Residents had more conceptual success with albums like "Eskimo" and "Third Reich 'N' Roll," they never seemed to be having quite as much fun as they did on their first album.