In celebration of The Residents’ 50th Anniversary, The Cryptic Corporation presents ‘Faceless Forever – A Residents Encyclopaedia’. Compiled, written and edited by Residents friends and insiders Jim Knipfel and Brian Poole, with contributions from The Residents themselves, Chris Combs, Paulie Kraynak, The Eyeball Museum and Richard Anderson, ‘Faceless Forever’ brings together over 500 entries exploring every release, every tour, key collaborators, lesser-known curiosities, niche trivia and minutiae from the periphery of the group’s universe.
Over the decades, there has been much speculation about who the hell the members of this band are. George Harrison of The Beatles was once rumoured to be in the band. The 1960s experimental band Cromagnon have been rumoured to share members with this band. Fast-fingered bass nut job Les Claypool of Primus Has been accused of being in the ranks. and a whole host of others, each one flat out denying their participation, their denial only fuelling the certainty of those determined to reveal the secrets. But, regardless of whoever originated, perpetuated, or has represented this band over the decades, there is no denying that The Residents are unendingly creative, unstoppably prolific, and undeniably extraordinary.
If evidence were ever required to prove that collaboration can only lead to the fantastic, the freakish, the grotesque, the peculiar, the ridiculous, the ludicrous, and the all-out weird, then one need only turn to the extensive output of this band. Largely ignored at the time of its release, 1974’s Meet the Residents gained a favourable review three years later in an issue of Sounds described the album as incomprehensible and alien, becoming enjoyable only after multiple listens. For those that dared beyond that initial listen and stayed with the band, their devotion has been endlessly rewarded. The vast output of this band is incredible. But it is vast. And keeping track of the band’s body of work would be nothing short of a nightmare. Thankfully, Knipfel and Poole are insane enough to take on such a gloriously monumental and gleefully maddening task.
For anyone wondering, for instance, where one of the many early studio set up by the band known as ‘The Crypt’ was, despair not. According to this tome, the location cannot be verified because even the band themselves have forgotten where it was, despite having paperwork which confirms that it did actually exist. If you were wondering what was on the 1989 tape Mixes for WEA, the answer is here: nobody remembers, and nobody remembers why it was compiled. If you’re wondering what happened to Alvin Snow (aka Dyin’Dog’), the all-but-forgotten Louisiana-based albino blues singer active in the mid 70s and inspiration for The Residents Metal, Meat & Bone project who disappeared in 1976: nobody knows. Well, it has been 50 years. There’s a lot of ground to cover, a lot to remember, and a lot that could be forgotten. But you’ll be pleased to know that a lot of it is contained within the almost-300 pages but make up this rather wonderful encyclopaedia. 50 years in the making, this is a must for any fan of the band.
Words (in this review, not the book, obviously) by Jason Guest