Destroyers of music since their inception – or at least since they materialised on this planet sometime during the self-induced hallucinations of the masses in the late 60s/early 70s – The Residents were doing their utmost to kill commercial music. Well, maybe not kill it, but perhaps remind us that it was dead. And we had killed it. The Beatles had done it all, after all. The Beatles had copied all the styles, stolen all the chord progressions, mixed up the melodies, and repurposed the entire history of western music in one profitable postmodern package. Nope, there was nobody before, during or after the Beatles. Nothing. Just the void.
Their 1974 debut album, Meet The Residents (reviewed here), took a while to take hold. People were too busy searching for the dark side of the moon (spoiler: there is no dark side of the moon really; as a matter of fact, it’s all dark, you fools!). Though the the Nazi imagery in the artwork was, unsurprisingly, misunderstood by more than a few people, 1976’s The Third Reich ‘n Roll was a commentary on how rock ‘n roll brainwashed the youth of the world, its mashup of sounds, styles and samples an act of cultural sabotage, bringing down the walls from within. And then along came three, Fingerprince, their 1977 entry in the competition of calamity and creativity. Avant-garde and minimalist, it was no match for punk’s palatability. The Sex Pistols did it all, after all. They copied all the styles – of the 50s at least, stole all the chords – all the barre chords at least, spat on the melodies, and repacked rage in a profitable postmodern package. Nope, there was nobody before, during or after The Sex Pistols. Nothing. Just the void.
The void must have taken a rest soon after – or left a gap – because, an oddity for the band, the first pressings of 1978’s 7-song EP Duck Stab quickly sold out and so it was quickly re-released as an album twinned with Buster and Glen on side two to soon cement the band’s cult following and establish them as an almost-commercial entity. Unhinged, demented, and nightmare-inducing, the sinister sounds that swirled and swilled into the swollen ears of the era had somehow been crafted into short and jaunty tunes that perhaps not quite but almost do resemble the pop song, without the obvious verse/chorus structure. Their fifteen minutes of fame loomed. But no. Heads had begun talking, The Stones were banging on about some girls, Bob Marley was wailing away, and the man machine occupying some German power station was nudging us into the electronic automation of the 80s.
And so, a mere forty-five years later, Cherry Red Records are about to cash in on all the unearthly success that this ear-twisting collection avoided all those years ago by releasing it as a double LP along with some more wonderfully weird and wired extras, just for you. Duck Stab and its chums, Buster and Glen, are accompanied by the wonderfully branded ‘Shitty Rock ‘N Roll Rdx Suite (The ‘Duck Stab’ Multitrack tapes)’, a reworked and remixed suite produced by The Residents using the album’s original multitrack tapes, on side three, and a bunch of other delights from those drunken punken (not quite) days on side four. Wrapped in the album’s long out of print original sleeve artwork, this is a very disturbing package. With all its addendums, this release of Duck Stab is hallucination without the drugs, chaos without the morning-after mess, uneasy listening without the discontentment.
Cherry Red Records are doing a stellar job of looking after The Residents back catalogue, and the work that the band, the production team and the label are putting into these re-releases is outstanding. Cherry Red have a few more Residents releases coming soon so take the opportunity to get hold of this now. Oh, can you imagine the fine collection you will soon have for those Sunday get-togethers with the barely tolerable members of your family and their noisy, sugared-up, tech-suckered kids? Hey Grandma, where were you when this was a hit? Oh, you were listening to The Beatles. Still? In the 70s? I guess The Pistols weren’t really your thing, huh…
Words by Jason Guest
Released on 19 May 2023 by Cherry Red Records and available here
Side One: Duck Stab
2 Sinister Exaggerator
3 The Booker Tease
4 Blue Rosebuds
5 Laughing Song
6 Bach Is Dead
7 Elvis And His Boss
Side Two: Buster & Glen
1 Lizard Lady
3 Birthday Boy
4 Weight-Lifting Lulu
5 Krafty Cheese
6 Hello Skinny
7 The Electrocutioner
Side Three: Shitty Rock ‘N Roll Rdx Suite
(The ‘Duck Stab’ Multitrack tapes)
1 Santa Dog ’78
2 Guylum Bardot ’78
3 Soulful Sax
4 Ow Bout That (Instrumental)
5 When Johnny Comes Marching
7 Bach Is Dead (1982 Rehearsal)
8 Birthday Boy (1982 Rehearsal)
9 Constantinople (1982 Rehearsal)