The Residents’ debut “album” – in quotes because the term loosely applies – doesn’t make sense. A mixture of blues, jazz, opera and classical music, performed in a deliberately haphazard manner, there is no clear line to draw through this album. Opening with a bastardised version of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, the doorway into a dungeon of Dadaist lyrics, oddly-timed whacks, cracks and thwacks of what is assumed to be percussion, piano strikes that bear the occasional malodorous melody, and an array of extraordinary sonic reverberations is opened. Almost 8-minutes later, and the curiously catchy track ‘Smelly Tongues’ Leave the listener baffled. There’s no description for what just happened. And there’s little time for reflection. The second half of the album is just as bizarre. These longer, more “developed” compositions pose more questions than the first half of the album answered. One can imagine the bewildered look on the outraged faces of those that bought the album thinking it was perhaps a homage or even a parody of The Beatles and didn’t expect the very unexpected.
The 1960s broke music. The 1970s tried to fix it. And there were more than a few good attempts, so much so that we look back at these periods as times of great innovation. But what we are afraid to admit is that music was done, over, kaput! When The Residents introduced themselves, their extended metaphorical hand presented to the world what to most sounded like the remnants of popular – and not-so – musical forms. But for those that paid attention, what The Residents were presenting was possibility. Potential. Rock music of the 1970s congratulated itself through ornamentation and grandeur. Everything was big. Loud. Ostentatious. But beyond this façade, this array of style and styles, there was little substance. And very little of it was subversive. The counterculture had had its day, had achieved nothing, and had left a bad taste in the mouths of the many who had gulped down handfuls of LSD in the hope of escaping into illumination. If the 1970s had paid as much attention to The Resident’s debut album as they did to the releases of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, etc., rock music would have been something very different and the 1980s may never have happened.
A disorienting mess, an avant-garde abomination, a calamitous collection of confusion and chaos, almost 50 years since the day of its release, Meet The Residents remains as refreshing as it was in 1977 when 850 of the original 1050 pressings had eventually sold and Sounds gave it a favourable – not great, note – review, saying it was “… enjoyable after multiple listens.” Yes, this remastered and expanded edition is enjoyable – very enjoyable – especially for those who recognise music really does take itself far too seriously from time to time. If you haven’t met this band already, now’s your chance.
Suffered, savoured, and saluted by Jason Guest
- Available now through Cherry Red Records here
- The Residents official website
Disc One: ‘Meet The Residents’ Mono 1974 Mix
Disc Two: ‘Meet The Residents’ Stereo 1977 Mix
- Numb Erone
- Guylum Bardot
- Breath And Length
- Consuelo’s Departure
- Smelly Tongues
- Rest Aria
- Spotted Pinto Bean
- Infant Tango
- Seasoned Greetings
Disc Three: Alternate Versions, Contemporary Out-Takes and the recently discovered ‘Ralph Records Guided Tour’.
- Meet The Residents Alternate Concentrate
- Quick Brain Tuesday
- 7733 Variations
- More Forgotten Tuesdays*
- Overlay At Regular Speed
- Numb Erone/inka
- Horny Song*
- Tuesday 4J*
- Even More Forgotten Tuesdays*
- Tuesday #3
- Inka Again
- George’s Horn*
- The Ralph Records Guided Tour*