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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The Residents
The Commercial Album
Cryptic Corporation

Rating: 7/10 ?


March 7, 2005
To relate to modern day rock standards, the Residents were like an earlier version of Primus. Some even say that the two groups were interrelated. Consider the following:

Both groups were from California's Bay area. Both groups were known to dress up in costumes and masks for performances. Both created music that was considered highly eclectic by the greater music community, and were therefore revered in cult followings around the nation.

Where the Residents extended beyond Primus was in creating an album with a commercially critical concept and still making it creative and well-perceived. The band is marking the 25th anniversary of the release of The Commercial Album by re-releasing it to the public; a whole new crowd with a newly established cultural mindset.

The year following the release of their first highly praised brainwork, Eskimo (1979), the group decided to go in a different direction. Where Eskimo had been a profound album - one that desired the intensity of both performer and listener to be fully enjoyed - The Commercial Album was meant to be the exact opposite. To make an album with songs that were brighter and lighter, the band decided to do something more "commercial." In this sense the Residents came to the conclusion that most commercial tracks were (as quoted in their liner notes), "short, catchy and, almost always, bloated."

They then decided to cut out the audio fat and limit all the songs of the album to one minute long, or the average length of a television commercial. Such a concept was never thoroughly embraced by music consumers of the 1980s, and remains to this day on the cusp of experimental sound.

The Commercial Album was regardless a brilliant idea and well-executed production. No one else, except maybe garage punks, had ever attempted to compose an album of as many songs as there are running minutes. However this wasn't even the most artsy element about the album. The group's strange psychedelic sound was to also coincide with similarly tripped-out music videos, a convention of entertainment that was a novelty in the early 80s.

The overall album concept made for 40 different song vignettes. Some are brief capsules recounting theories of love while others tell the relatively lengthy tales of carnival-type characters and their eccentricities. Lyrical detail provides the dynamic of splashing wave versus calm ripple as the lead singer (identity unknown) plays character parts for the many vignette personalities.

Often, while lyrics are spoken, voice filters are used to make an English accent sound robotic or alien-like and all the more otherworldly. When the singer actually sings, one can see where Les Claypool was heavily influenced as a budding musician, both in lyrical style and vocal timbre (listen to "Loss of Innocence," "Possessions," or "Give it to Someone Else" and try to tell me that it's not Les). Some critics maintain that through the vocal and instrumental extensions, Primus and the Residents are too similar to not be related in some way.

Instrumental parts are related much the same. Plump slap bass riffs dance around in dark carnival compositions during several upbeat, catchy tunes. You can also hear a twinge of Emerson Lake and Palmer's Brain Salad Surgery, where wacky orchestral and electronic techniques become a sliver of the overall expansive rock piece. But this applies more to the abstract, spacey tunes in which the Residents' sound resembles four minds with instruments inside them (featuring synth blips, eerie keyboard drownings, polytonal vocal harmonies, etc.). This is not a recording that most would consider a good everyday listen but more of an album for experimental, dark moods.

Even though the concept and video accompaniment of The Commercial Album are both extremely artsy, nothing made the Residents more avant-garde than their musical personae. In album photos, for the press, and while performing, the band was always anonymous individuals wearing costumes. (Also interesting to note is that Primus often performs with a musician, Buckethead, whose identity is unknown due to a face mask and overturned KFC bucket he always wears on his head) To this day, very few people actually know who the musicians behind the giant eyeball masks and tuxedos were.

What everyone does know is that this band and their ideas made the world of music a different place. Being yourself, and being something entirely different at the same time, became possible through the Residents and their conceptual wit, sense of experimentation, musical prowess, and alter egos.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger

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