What does it sound like?:
I guess most readers are at least familiar with the ‘eyeball’ costume of ‘art collective’ The Residents, if not with their actual music. This is their first album since 2013, and is a storytelling project based around train crashes at the turn of the 19th/20th century when the railways were still in their infancy. Not particularly cheery subject matter, but with The Residents you’re never quite sure if the joke is on you, the listener – are they laughing with you or at you?
Supposedly all the incidents related on the album tie in with actual historic events, but you’re never quite sure what’s real and what’s not here. I suppose you would describe the various scenarios as soundscapes or tone poems rather than conventional songs, often with narration in the language of the period and accompanied by suitable sound effects. The music itself, such as it is, is almost incidental to proceedings at times. Think of this almost as an audio book of short stories set to incidental music. Some of the pieces are actually quite moving in a strange hard to define way – the elephant defending its territory against the mechanical intruder, the mother searching for her missing child, the clown who survives a crash involving a travelling circus.
The booklet is integral to this package, recounting brief summaries of each event dramatised in the songs.
Cutting edge avant- garde or the emperor’s new clothes – you’ll have to decide for yourself!
What does it all *mean*?
An intriguing but challenging listen – but then you can probably say that about every album the outfit has released!
Goes well with…
Hard to say – there’s not much middle ground with this band – you either love them or hate them.
Might suit people who like…
Avant garde, Beefheart, Zappa.