Wednesday, 9 September 2020

The Residents

As readers of this blog will be aware, my most recent publication is a biography of The Mysterious N Senada, a Bavarian musician whose Theory of Obscurity greatly influenced the American art collective known as The Residents. "O For Obscurity, Or, The Story Of N" is available as a limited edition paperback through Psychofon Records and also had been coupled with The Resident's recording of Senada's "Pollex Christi", although I believe that version has now sold out. Anyway, despite The Residents being the biggest avant garde band in history with over 60 albums since the early 1970s it still surprises me as to how few people seem to have heard of them. Here then, is a guide to some of my favourite pieces. It tends to be the more accessible material, so - believe me - there is a lot of stuff they've done which is weirder than this - but here are my 'go to' favourites for some Residential listening. Enjoy! Where possible I've linked to videos - the band have been pioneers for the format - but also some live performances that I love.

1. Guylum Bardot is contained within the opening segment of their debut album, "Meet The Residents", from 1974. A suitably weird piece with a musicality that I love.

2. Another favourite album is the delightfully named "Fingerprince". Here is the opening track, the infectious "You Yesyesyes".

3. My favourite Residents album is "Not Available". A concept album in several suites, I've chosen the opener "Part One: Edweena" as it makes sense to start at the beginning. What a fabulously evocative piece of music.

4. "Duck Stab" is often cited as a favourite album amongst fans. I could have chosen "Hello Skinny" but "Constantinople" just about beats it. And I love this fairly recent live performance. What a costume! 

5. If all this is getting heavy, here's a one minute song from "The Commercial Album". I once recited the lyrics in full to actor Reece Shearsmith after a reading he gave for a snail story he had written. Here's why with "Moisture".

6. "Mark Of The Mole" was another 'story' album, this time a story of moles under attack from humans. An excellent excerpt is "Migration".

7. "The Tunes Of Two Cities", the second album in the mole trilogy, compares the music of the Moles and the Chubbs. I love this jaunty piece, which I would select as my entry music if I ever took up professional wrestling.

8. I'm fast-forwarding a bit to the "Demons Dance Alone" album written in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I love this album so much I'm including three songs here. The first is a live performance of "Life Would Be Wonderful", with the normal lyrics changed to reflect the band's circumstances. I would have loved to have been at the shows for this album, because the pieces viewable online are truly magical. This version also includes a laconic James Brown anecdote.

9. "Honey Bear" from the same album showcases The Singing Resident's gravelly melancholy voice which makes me melt.

10. Finally from "Demons Dance Alone" who wouldn't like a song called "Make Me Moo"? There's often a childlike feel to The Resident's music (note: not childish) and this song perfectly exemplifies that.

11. Only The Residents would record a song about the Dutch tulip crisis! "Two Lips" might have double meanings of course. This is from the "Animal Lover" album.

12. A beautiful piece of music and a wonderful video for "My Window" (also from "Animal Lover")

13. Moving to more recent material, here's the catchy "Voodoo Doll" from the "Intruders" album:

14. And then we are bang up to date with a couple of tracks from 2020's "Metal, Meat and Bone": the re-imagining of lost demos from the forgotten blues singer, Dyin' Dog. First up is the (not safe for work) video for the incredibly catchy "Bury My Bone", with The Singing Resident channeling Ken Dodd, surely?

15. And finally another moving vocal in "Mama Don't Go".

Of course, there are loads I haven't mentioned and this selection just scratches the surface. There are far more experimental pieces in their oeuvre than this, but hopefully it provides a good introduction. Special shout out should go to the "Eskimo" album but because it is best heard as one piece I haven't made a selection from it. Feel free to add your favourites in the comments box below.

If you've enjoyed these, I suggest you follow Ralph's Records' motto: Buy Or Die!

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