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Archive for the ‘The Residents’ Category

[POSTPONED: May 14, 2021] The Residents [rescheduled from May 1, 2020; moved to September 3, 2021]

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It seemed like a May date would be safe, but now things are getting pushed back to the middle of the summer and the Fall.  This new date might happen.

The Residents are one of the most famous obscure bands in the world.  Many people have never heard of them.  Many people who have heard of them know that they wear giant eyeballs on their heads, but don’t know much about their music.  And some of us who own a couple of Residents records have no idea what their full output is like.

They’ve been around since the mid 1970s and have released some sixty albums covering all styles and genres, with the focus on avant garde sounds.  They are also hugely influential to all kinds of musicians.

When they play live, each band member wears a costume (usually the giant eyeball, but not always) and aside from the main composer for the band who died two years ago, no one really knows who is in the band.

I’ve heard their live shows were amazing spectacles, so I thought it might be fun to see them.I didn’t even realize they were still touring, so I was quiet surprised to see them coming to Philly in 2020.  I’ve heard their live shows were amazing spectacles, so I thought it might be fun to see them.  Because they’ve been around forever, I kind of assume they can play a larger venue, but again, no one has heard of them, so it makes sense that they were playing The Foundry.  But how big of a spectacle can you have at t The Foundry?

I suspected that cancelling their show might be the end of the tour for them (If the recently deceased member of the band was nearly 80, how old are the rest of them?  Who knows, they could all be in their 20s).  I’m glad to see the show is postponed, as I might just have to see what they are all about live.

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[POSTPONED: May 1, 2020] The Residents [moved to May 14, 2021]

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The Residents are one of the most famous obscure bands in the world.  Many people have never heard of them.  Many people who have heard of them know that they wear giant eyeballs on their heads, but don’t know much about their music.  And some of us who own a couple of Residents records have no idea what their full output is like.

They’ve been around since the mid 1970s and have released some sixty albums covering all styles and genres, with the focus on avant garde sounds.  They are also hugely influential to all kinds of musicians.

When they play live, each band member wears a costume (usually the giant eyeball, but not always) and aside from the main composer for the band who died two years ago, no one really knows who is in the band.

I’ve heard their live shows were amazing spectacles, so I thought it might be fun to see them.I didn’t even realize they were still touring, so I was quiet surprised to see them coming to Philly in 2020.  I’ve heard their live shows were amazing spectacles, so I thought it might be fun to see them.  Because they’ve been around forever, I kind of assume they can play a larger venue, but again, no one has heard of them, so it makes sense that they were playing The Foundry.  But how big of a spectacle can you have at t The Foundry?

I suspected that cancelling their show might be the end of the tour for them (If the recently deceased member of the band was nearly 80, how old are the rest of them?  Who knows, they could all be in their 20s).  I’m glad to see the show is postponed, as I might just have to see what they are all about live.

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SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-Escape From Noise (1987).

This was my introduction to Negativland.  And I loved it.  I loved everything about his album.  I used to play songs from it on my college radio show all the time.

I loved that the first track, “Announcement” opens with this ponderous statement

This announcement from the producers of this record contains important information for radio program directors, and is not for broadcast. The first cut on this record has been cross-format-focused for airplay success. As you well know, a record must break on radio in order to actually provide a living for the artists involved. Up until now, you’ve had to make these record-breaking decisions on your own, relying only on perplexing intangibilities like taste and intuition. But now, there’s a better way.  The cut that follows is the product of newly-developed compositional techniques, based on state-of-the-art marketing analysis technology. This cut has been analytically designed to break on radio. And it will, sooner or later.

After a count down comes the “radio hit” they call “Quiet Please” which opens with a cacophony of noise–smashing cymbals jagged guitars and bizarre sound effects with a man yelling “Quiet Please!”  It’s insane and really quite catchy–at least by 2019 standards.

After we hear David say, “I’m going to record all the noise,”, his mom talks about how much noise they don’t have there before a Girl says Michael Jackson and then a loud voice lists a whole bunch of 1980s bands indulging Weird Al and David…Booie (Bowie).

AND WE ESPECIALLY CALL FOR THE JUDGMENT IN THIS HOUR AND THE DESTROYING OF ROCK MUSIC DIRECTED SPECIFICALLY AGAINST CHILDREN AND WORKING SPECIFICALLY THROUGH THESE INDIVIDUALS FOR WHOM WE CALL FOR THE JUDGMENT IN THE SACRED FIRE IN THIS HOUR BEFORE THE THRONE OF ALMIGHTY GOD

This rant is followed by a catchy bouncy synth riff which opens the next song “Escape from Noise.”  It continues the premise of breaking music on the radio.  But then a man starts shouting about the noise all around us.  “Is there any escape from noise?”  This line always made me chuckle: IT’S NO WONDER YOU’RE EXHAUSTED AFTER A DAY OF SHOPPING.

Then David states in his inimitable voice:

Supposing you’re watching the Playboy Channel, (“Ooooh yes! Oh….”) and it’s just about time for them to have an orgasm(“….Oh! Oh! Harder! Oh! Oh! I think I’m gonna explode! Oh! Oh!”) When all of a sudden: Wham! The horrible noise comes in, and completely destroys your orgasm on the Playboy Channel. (“Oh yes-“).

“The Playboy Channel” also features Jello Biafra, flushing a toilet.

The bouncy riff returns for “Stress in Marriage.”  Along with other various song snippets, the announcer tells us, there’s enough built-in stress in marriage without noise contributing.

“Nesbitt’s Lime Soda Song” is a straight up folk song (and very catchy too.  But there’s a surprisingly dramatic temp throughout as a bee gets into the last bottle of the previous lime soda.

I brought a case of Nehi, and Double Cola, too
A half a dozen Upper 10’s, and good old Mountain Dew
I bought a quart of Cola-Up, to get me through the day
But just one bottle of Nesbitt’s Lime Soda
And we had to throw it away

“Over the Hiccups” features a little girl (Louisa Michaels) singing “Over the Rainbow” while suffering from the hiccups  It’s cute and bizarre.

“Sycamore” is a fascinating song that splices spoken clips about guns and a planned community.

“Car Bomb” is two minutes of thumping drums and screaming vocals.  Each “verse” ends in a shout of CAR BOMB! and a humongous explosion.  It’s awesome.

“Methods of Torture” has various synth sounds and then describes how sound was used as methods of torture: “put someone’s head in side a bell and ring it.  And eventually they’ll go insane.

“Yellow Black and Rectangular” is a pretty song–various bell-like sounds looping while a man and woman talk about a sign that’s yellow and black with wedge shapes inside.  The splicing is exquisite.

“Backstage Pass” has samples of presumably Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart (see below) with a sitar, I guess?  Not the best song on the record, for sure (and an homophobic slur).  But it leads into the masterpiece that is “Christianity Is Stupid.”

“Christianity Is Stupid” is a four-minute track that samples the propaganda movie If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?, with primarily the narrator saying over and over “Christianity is Stupid, Communism is Good.  Give up!”    It’s awesome.

Shop as usual and avoid panic buying.

You can only follow that up with something more ridiculous and sublime: “Time Zones.”  I’m not sure why, but this track was a personal favorite among myself and my friends.  After a musical interlude, a narrator talks about the Soviet Union before a transistor radio begins talking about how many time zones there are in the Soviet Union.  Eleven.  Eleven.

“You Don’t Even Live Here” is a great recording of a hearing in which a woman yells about a nuclear reactor being built in their community.  It’s pretty inspiring, actually (even if it is rather distorted).  The music is pretty cool, too.

“The Way of It” ends the disc in a kind of recap–”this is not the way of it…all that shouting, all that noise.”  Followed by “Endscape” a little cheering section to close the record.

I haven’t listened to this is many years, but it sounded even better this time through.  This album is so far ahead of it’s time it’s ridiculous.  Its not even funny.

The creators of this masterpiece were:

  • Mark Hosler: Singing, synthesizers, guitars, voice tapes, percussions, rhythm loops, bomb parts, David manipulation, tiny metal banjo, recorder, lots of other noises, mix
  • Don Joyce: Yelling, talking tapes, electric tympani, synthesizer, lyrics, singing, Booper bee, bomb parts and assembly, noises everywhere, mix
  • Chris Grigg: Drums, synthesizer, singing, computer & software, field recordings, mix
  • David Wills: Talking, shortwave, family tape, bomb parts, regular Booper
  • Richard Lyons: Singing, lyrics, voice
With contributions from
  • Ian Allen: Helicopter (on “Sycamore”), Rhythm Loop (on “Car Bomb”), Bell (on “Time Zones”)
  • Jello Biafra c/o Dead Kennedys: Toilet Flushing (on “The Playboy Channel”)
  • Das c/o Big City Orchestra: Voice Tapes (on “Quiet Please”)
  • Dina Emerson: Wordless Vocals (on “You Don’t Even Live Here”)
  • Steve Fisk: Optigan and Voice Tapes (on “Michael Jackson”)
  • Tera Freedman: Voice Tape (on “Backstage Pass”)
  • Phil Freihofner: Bomb Parts (on “Car Bomb”)
  • Ray Briem: radio talk show host (on “Time Zones”)
  • Ed Markmann: Paid Voice
  • Fred Frith: Urban Drum and Halfspeed Violin (on “Michael Jackson”)
  • Jerry Garcia c/o Grateful Dead: Mouth Sounds and Chimes (on “Backstage Pass”)
  • Alexander Hacke c/o Einstürzende Neubauten: Metal Noises (on “Christianity Is Stupid”)
  • Mickey Hart c/o Grateful Dead: Percussion and Processed Animals (on “Backstage Pass”)
  • Tom Herman c/o Tripod Jimmie: Torture Guitars (on “Methods of Torture”)
  • Henry Kaiser: Doublespeed Disco Guitars (on “Quiet Please”)
  • Louisa Michaels c/o Step One Nursery School: Singing (on “Over the Hiccups”)
  • Mark Mothersbaugh c/o Devo: Jazz Bass, Jimi Hendrix, E-cussion, Saxophone and Noises (on “The Playboy Channel”)
  • The Residents Hoots and Clanging (on “You Don’t Even Live Here”)
  • Rev. Ivan Stang c/o The Church of the SubGenius: Larynx (on “Christianity Is Stupid”)
  • Rand Weatherwax c/o CBS: Orchestra Hits and E-cussion (on “Quiet Please”)
  • Rob Wortman c/o Kingshouse: Leaf blower (on “You Don’t Even Live Here”)

[READ: April 20, 2019] “Quality Time”

This story was sitting on my kitchen table and my mother-in-law picked it up and wondered why I had a 19 year-old story from the New Yorker.  She bristled at the early sentence: “She had her husband’s permission.”

This shaped my view of the story before I read it and I looked at it with a 2019 viewpoint to see if the story was retrograde.

The fact that a woman is hit by a car and killed didn’t help very much.  Especially since, although her death affects him, it is never given a justification.  Nor is it even a plot point, per se. (more…)

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824SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-Miscellaneous Debris (1992).

debrsiAfter the success of Sailing the Seas of Cheese, Primus created this five song EP of covers.  Les had just gotten a new Carl Thompson “rainbow bass” and he used the EP as a way to try it out.

This EP is, interestingly, their most listener friendly release thus far.  In part because they are playing more conventional songs (even if in an unconventional way).  Although they are not the most obvious covers:

Peter Gabriel-“Intruder.”  This is an earlier Peter Gabriel song (when he was still kind of weird).  The Primus version is suitably spooky and weird, but it is a great version.  It sounds a lot like the original, which is creepier than you might expect from Gabriel–but he was a weirdo before he became an adult contempo sweetheart.

XTC-“Making Plans for Nigel”  One of XTC’s more popular songs, this version is faster than the original, but right on and quite fun.

The Residents-“Sinister Exaggerator”  The Residents are quite weird (and may be the one band that is closest in spirit to Primus). This version is indeed pretty close to the original (although you can hear the lyrics better on the original!).

The Meters-“Tippi Toes”  The Meters area n old school funk band.  This is a song with no lyrics.  The Primus version sounds more full than the original (which incorporates Tiptoe Thru the Tulips”)  but it is quite faithful otherwise.

Pink Floyd-“Have a Cigar”  This is clearly the most popular original on the disc.  But Primus do a great job with it (Les is under the impression that Roger Waters didn’t like their version–but what do you expect?). They have a lot of fun with this song–keeping it close to the original (except for Ler’s guitar, mostly) and the twisted lyrics that say “who the hell’s this guy they call Bob Cock?”

So while this is a great introduction to Primus, it is not entirely representative of their sound. And yet, it sort of is as well.  Hence the title.

[READ: January 6, 2015] “One Saturday Morning”

Tessa Hadley continues to impress me with her beautiful stories in which really nothing happens.  It opens with a girl practicing her piano and ends with her and her brother looking at a bug.  And in between something almost happens, but not quite.

Set in the 1960s, Carrie is a ten-year old girl practicing her piano.  Her brother is outside playing cricket and her parents are out shopping for their party that evening.  Carrie hates practicing the piano–the music just doesn’t speak o her.  She also fears that her piano tutor is mad at her because of a childish letter she wrote and may have left at her tutor’s house.

While she is thinking about this, the doorbell rings.  She doesn’t recognize the man right away but she quickly realizes that it his her parents’ old friend Dom.  Dom is a big man, somewhat intimidating but affable. Carrie is intimidated by him though, especially since her parents aren’t around.  He hasn’t been around since he moved a way a few years ago.  But he says he is in town and wanted to visit friends.  She assures him that her parents will be home shortly and invites him in.  But rather than entertain him, she runs upstairs to hide. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE RESIDENTS-Meet the Residents plus Santa Dog EP (1973/1972).

Like a proto- Negativland meets Primus, The Residents took the world by storm in 1973.  Their debut album (pictured here) bore the unmistakable tagline: The First Album by North Louisiana’s Phenomenal Pop Combo.  And so it is.

Read more about the album in the Jon Savage essay below.

“Boots” is a sampled and remashed version of “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”  “Gylum Bardot” sounds like a Primus demo.  “Breath and Length” is noise and noise and effects and a soothing female vocal singing the title.   “Consuelo’s Departure” is a noisy soundtrack to nothing and “Smelly Tongues” sounds like a hammered dulcimer with a menacing bassline behind it until the vocals come in: “Smelly tongues looked just as they felt”.   And all 6 of these songs last less than ten minutes total.

“Rest Aria” changes tempo of things.  It’s five minutes long.  It starts as a simple piano track (slightly out of tune) but it slowly adds crazy horns and what sounds like children’s instruments.  The other longish song, “Spotted Pinto Beans” comes with a kind of faux chorus (female and then male) singing a kind of call and response which is overtaken by noise.

The one-minute “Skratz” comes between these two longer songs and is mostly  mumbling spoken vocal.  “Infant Tango” sounds like a normal song.  It opens with a funky wah wahed guitar.  Of course, the skronking horns and mumbled bass vocals tell you this is not going to be a hit.  It runs 6 minutes long with a strange little “guitar solo” in the middle.

“Seasoned Greetings” (with it’s weird holiday wishes at the end) segues into the 9 minute “N-Er-Gee (Crisis Blues”).  “N-Er-Gee” is a piano “melody” which is really someone banging the same notes very hard on the piano.  The voice on both tracks sounds like the aural equivalent of blackface until the sample (a very long sample that apparently voided placement on some releases) of “Nobody But You” morphs into a manipulated sampling of the word “boogaloo” and eventually becomes a dissonant chant of the title.

The appended Santa Dog is a bit more song-like.  Totally weird songs yes, but there’s actual melodies and lyrics.  Like on “Fire”: “Santa dog’s a Jesus fetus.”  “Aircraft Damage” is mostly a bunch of people reciting bizarre lyrics over each other.  The whole EP was about 12 minutes.  It’s weird but more palatable than the LP.

Despite how much this album foreshadowed loony alternative bands in the future, there is a clear predecessor in Trout Mask Replica.  Although Captain Beefheart followed a (relatively) more conventional song structure, you can hear elements of the Beefheart within.  This album is also notable for being made in the early 70s when the technology to do this easily was very far away.  You could whip this album up in a few minutes now, but back then with splice and paste, it would take ages.

It did not sell as well as the similarly titled Meet the Beatles.

[READ: June 16, 2011] Five Dials Number 11

Five Dials Number 10 was a special issue, but Number 11 goes back to the format we know.  It sort of has a theme about lists.   It contains half a dozen short essays and one long short story by Paul Murray (author of Skippy Dies).  This issue is also something of a surprise as it weighs in at a fairly small 16 pages (sometimes smaller is perfectly fine).  The issue also raised a couple of totally weird coincidences which I will point out as they come up.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Wilton’s and Lists
Number 10 was designed to be ready for an evening at Wilton’s Music Hall on February 26th.  But the real theme of the issue is lists.  In part this is inspired by the Raymond Chandler entry, it’s also inspired because Taylor keeps lists around the office.  At the end of the letter he provides a list of all of the notes he’d left to himself in the office.  Some are about the issue (Paul Murray manuscript), other are seemingly more random (USA 5 Canada 3, men’s Olympic ice hockey result;  Canada 7-Russia 3, men’s Olympic ice hockey result; ‘Range Life’–Pavement).  And the one that is most coincidental to me–(The Umbrellas of Cherbourg–Jacques Demy).  This is coincidental because on the day that I read this, my friend Lar wrote a post about this very movie, which was completely unknown to me. (more…)

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