The Residents have been around since the early ’70s, have made over 60 albums, 10 DVDs, 3 CD-ROM projects and numerous music videos and short films. And they make weird-assed music and dress in tuxes with top hats and eye masks. Do we know anything else about them? Yes, they’re from Shreveport, Louisiana and relocated to the San Francisco bay area in the mid 60s. And that’s about it; there’s little else confirmed we know about this mysterious group.
Their recordings — for those who have the desire to go through it — might provide more clues. Occasionally I’ll check out a new Residents release but their brand of avant-garde isn’t usually the kind that captures my interest, especially once they’ve gone off into drone-y experimental electronica.
The early days, though, are far more intriguing, back when they had little actual musical ability but plenty of wide-eyed imagination. That’s the kind of imagination found on their second album, The Third Reich ‘N Roll (1976). That disc is a collage of 60′s pop hits spread over two long tracks, but it’s not your typical collage. They start with the original recordings, cuisinart ‘em, play on top of ‘em and then pull out those originals. What’s left is some ghostly, lo-fi semblance of these songs all mashed together, some easily recognizable, like “Sunshine Of Your Love”, “96 Tears,” and “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag.”
If there’s a message in mashing Hitler with hits, it might be that pop music is a dictatorship imposing the safe and tame on the masses, though Cream or even James Brown were pioneers who could hardly be regarded as safe and tame. Instead, I think the Eye Guys were just having fun messing up songs they grew with.