What does it sound like?:
Posted on behalf of Metal Mickey…….
“Always different, always the same” was John Peel’s oft-quoted bromide about The Fall, but it could just as well be applied to anonymous (but not as anonymous as they used to be) San Francisco eyeballs The Residents, even if their electronic avant-garde edges have been somewhat filed away over time, to be replaced with a kind of twisted Americana.
For those just catching-up, The Residents have been going for well over 40 years now, and long ago mutated from their underground music & video roots (they have a reasonable claim to being one of the first bands to really explore the idea of music video) into being fully accepted by the “art” fraternity, now habitually performing in venues like Sadlers Wells, the Barbican or the Festival Hall (stop press – and the Union Chapel next February), but there are still few things which denote “hipper than thou” quite like a Residents t-shirt.
Notwithstanding their age, they’ve been going through a prolific patch since the release of the well-received “Theory Of Obscurity” documentary a few years ago (well-worth checking out, by the way), and after their 4 CD retrospective and their tribute to train-wrecks “Ghost Of Hope” last year, “Intruders” is their second album of 2018, closely following “I Am A Resident”, a bonkers mash-up of fan cover versions.
The music itself here is strangely accessible, in a “soundtrack to a David Lynch movie” kind of way, though definitely at the Waits/Beefheart/Zappa end of the spectrum. That said, anyone coming to the Residents for the first time will wonder where their bonkers reputation comes from based on this collection. “Missing Me” could even be a (very) distant cousin of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game, “ and frankly this collection isn’t as inimitable as their best/earlier work.
Like many purveyors of more “underground” sounds, I always consider The Residents to be an “antidote” to normal music, the band you put on when everything else sounds ordinary and staid… under that criterion, this is a lesser addition to their output, but might be a reasonably “entry level” album to investigate for newbies, for whom much of the enjoyment will depend on your response to “Randy’s” lead vocals, a drawl which dominates most of the tracks, though there is an amount of misdirection with the excellent opening track “Bobbie’s Burning Blues” being sung by Carla Fabrizio, who doesn’t reappear until the closer “Shadows”… a little more light & shade in between might have helped.
What does it all *mean*?
Residents albums tend to come in 3 flavours: 1) music parodies, or re-contextualising others’ music, 2) concept albums based upon a single theme, and 3) narrative pieces like musical playlets. “Intruders” comes under section 2, eleven new songs centring on “alternate beings stalking the corners of our consciousness,“ though I’m not convinced the listener would suss that out based on the songs alone.
Each track comes with its own characters’ backstory in the nice accompanying 32 page booklet, where doppelgangers, ghosts and inner-voices all conspire to interrupt the lives of the narrators, and actually reading the mini-stories does make the tracks more immersive.
And you’ll think I’m mad, but allowing for adult content, I’ve often thought young children might actually love The Residents’ noise-play and storytelling (however, note to self: only attempt to prove this with the children of friends you don’t mind potentially losing.)
Goes well with…
A mask to hide who you truly are underneath.. or a craft ale with a suitably weird name or label.
Might suit people who like…
Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, David Lynch