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THE RESIDENTS ON TOUR!
Bright Lights Tour, Some Band History, and Videos For Your Listening Pleasure

by Mark Marker

Residentslive1.jpg This band is unlike anything else you have ever heard or seen. After 40 years of freaking people out, they take it to the road again!!! While Carlos is missing from this tour, the drum robot, never missed a beat. One of the other guys is also not an original member, but is a family member. Not sure who the Newbie is, because two guys look identical, despite being decades apart in age. The eyeballs were missed, but the stage show was still entertaining. These guys hail from San Francisco, and have maintained their secret identities for their entire career. However, if you are dying to get a peek of who they are, and what they look like, THEY DIDN'T HAVE A ROAD CREW AND LOADED OUT WITHOUT COSTUMES! So go see them live, while you still can, and take pictures!!! My editor refused to allow me to release their face to the public. S0.... YOU go take pictures and post them on Facebook!!!!! The show was awesome! The music was scary, funny, sad and joyous. Impeding doom actually was hilarious, but REAL. So laugh at your own demise, I did. If you take all the dialogue out of a scary movie, a really scary movie, and leave all the sound effects, and music, you are getting closer to what The Residents sound like. They played a good set, in length and texture. The crowd was there, but I expected a few more folks to be in attendance. Actually expected this to sell-out. It didn't. The crowd was stuffy, but attentive. VERY attentive. To the point we got hushed when we even whispered. Security seemed new, but the bar staff rocked! Thank you bartenders! The music made you headbang and breakdanceat the same time. Combining Death Metal and Disco without ever sounding like either. Truly the most unique band ever. Residents are completely in their own world.

The first official release under the name of "The Residents" was in 1972, and the group has since released over sixty albums, numerous music videos and short films, three CD-ROM projects, ten DVDs. They have undertaken seven major world tours and scored multiple films. Pioneers in exploring the potential of cd-rom and similar technologies, The Residents have won several awards for their multimedia projects. Ralph Records, a record label focusing on avant garde music, was started by The Residents.
 
The band was originally from Shreveport, La, and ended up in San Francisco in the late 60's. They have a lot of material that was recorded before they actually became The Residents. They sent some of their material to Warner Bros early in their career, and did not include a name on the return address, and Warner Bros., sent them a rejection letter addressed to Residents. They decided to keep the name. Thank you Warner Bros., for naming the most original band in the world, even though you never released a single record for them.

 
Their catalog is so expansive, that we will only talk about a few of their gems. We will help you find everything offered by them and the moles through links at the bottom of this feature.
 
"Mark of the Mole" is a conceptual album that tells the story of the Mohelmot people who live and work underground. A flood into their underground world results in immediate evacuation and subsequent exodus across a desert to the sea, which is inhabited by the Chubs. The Chubs see the Moles as a dedicated, hard working race they can exploit with little pay. Everything is cool for awhile, but soon the Moles realize their exploitation and war ensues. The war is short, solves nothing, and the tension remains at the close of the album.

The Residents depict this story with synthesizer, drum machine, bass, guitar, and heavily processed vocals. This album sounds as if it were literally recorded under the ground, with layers of low tone synth sounds and dark vocals creating the underground world of the Moles. The record opens with a low synth blast and a bass guitar melody over a steady drum machine high hat sample. Then a female chorus chimes in:

"People should be left alone
Unless they have a happy home"

This is followed by a news report (the voice of Penn Jillette) warning of the storm that will inevitably floods the Moleís holes, setting the stage for disasters to come.

From an audio standpoint, the attention to balance in frequency and the stereo image on this album are quite interesting. Most of the base sounds are panned left and right to allow sonic space for main vocals and high frequency synth effects, and the tonal balance between low and high frequencies is uncanny. The arrangement of these odd sounds is crucial, as this is the soundtrack to a play with out visual aid. The auditory experience conjures amazing images in the listenerís mind - the album graphics may help to define these images, but it is the music and lyrics that coax the mindís eye to truly "see" this play.

Recorded on a 16-track 1" machine, I believe the arrangements were recorded in sequence given the flawless transitions from song to song (or act to act). Listen, for example, to the transition between "It Never Stops" and "March to the Sea" - the fade out of "It Never Stops" continues to silence until, after a short pause, "March to the Sea" begins, fading in at the exact location that "It Never Stops" faded out. This indicates to me that this record was pre-planned to follow the story in sequence. The mix must have been a nightmare since there are so many smooth transition and crossfades (mind you, this was recorded before automation or computer editing).

One shining example of brilliant sound arrangement to accent the story is evident in "The Observer". The character in this act is making observations during the Molesí travel to the new land:                  

"I have been deceived, I have murdered and
I have seen the soul of an unborn lamb;
It can burn a hole in a guilty man,
But it cannot stand in a distant land"

Backed up musically by the ping ping of an electronic drum machine and tiny guitar that follows the melody of the observerís story. Accents are provided by low synth blasts and timpani-like sounds. In combination, these sounds and the lyrics give the impression of movement in a slow, swaying motion, much like a beaten down laborer or down-and-out family during the depression era, walking (nay, crawling) through the Dust Bowl. Powerful images!

Shortly after the Moles arrive in Chubland, another character decides that if he could build a machine, he could free the Moles from Chub slavery. The sound of said machine is analog synthesis at its best! You hear the machine start up and build momentum with each successive modulator added into the pounding rhythm. Then, as quick as it buildsÖ it dies, signaling failure for the inventor.

The Residentsí signature vocal effect occurs throughout the album, but it is most pronounced with the meaningful lyrics that express raw, scathing hatred in "Donít Tread on Me". Occurring right before the war starts between the Chubs and Moles, this piece carries an embodiment of hate lyrics, hate sounds and hate vocal effects which come through in spine tingling way. I believe the vocal effects were created via a Leslie or ring modulator, its warbling lending that much more darkness to the album. Add to that the frightening recitation of these lyrics. 

"Hatred has hunger and hatred has eyes,
Hatred has purpose and hatred has size,
Hatred has honor but hatred hates lies!

Assailants of mercy with hate in your eyes,

Do not disturb us, you might be surprised,
We are not weaklings to tremble and die.

Hatred has dignity, hatred is clear,
Hatred has courage and hatred is dear,
Hatred has virtue and hatred is here!

Odious enemy do not come near
There is no pity or tenderness here,
There is no mercy, just villainous fear!"
;

Mark of the Mole closes with a light (as opposed to dense) arrangement with dissonant violin, soft drum machine, and a harpsichord-like synth sound, leaving the listener with the feeling that all is still not well. The battle may have been won, but the war is far from over.

This is a masterful piece of audio excellence! It begins with a clear vision of what the final album is to be and brings it to fruition, and I strongly believe that a "good" recording is one that achieves the artistic vision of the creator. A pop song is hard enough to write, but try writing a six-act play that will be performed only in sound. The Residents achieve this on Mark of the Mole with a consistency in mood that brings the Mole world to life in your living room. Every melody, every little flourish, every liquid-smooth transition is crafted to mix fluidly from start to finish, resulting in a well-balanced, well-recorded and true-to-life picture of the concept that was the goal of this project.

residents3rdreich.jpg"The Third Reich And Roll" is a nightmarish trip through the pop music of the 60's. Although there seem to be two songs on the album, these two songs actually meander from one pop song cover to the next. The fact that they're all rolled together gives you a sense that they don't mean anything individually, they just contribute to the whole of pop. And that's not even saying anything about the texture of the music. It sounds alternately like pop with all of the life sucked out of it, nightmarish versions of pop songs being covered by Satan and his band of demons, or a couple of drunks in a basement playing what they remember of "In A Gadda Da Vida." It all beautifully serves its purpose: to tarnish the image of the music we hear on the radio. By the end of the album, pop is left in a stinking heap of bubblegum, synthesizers, and dog food.

It starts with a Chubby Checker's German version of "Let's Twist Again". I By the time they start chanting the "Na nah-nah-nah-na"s from "Land of 1000 Dances" you know you're in for something special. Their cover of "Double Shot of My Baby's Love" ends with what sounds like World War II era footage of a plane plummeting to the ground. "Hey Little Girl" sounds absolutely evil and sinister. "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" is sung in German and the only element of the original left over is the occasional trumpet blast. The trumpet blast sounds like it's getting swallowed by a machine so that it turns into the guitars of "Talk Talk."

residentscrawfish.jpg "Meet The Residents" takes the vocal and instrumental innovations of the Beatles -- and Captain Beefheart -- and rockets them out into deep space. Listening to the White Album or Trout Mask Replica, you're never sure what you're going to hear from one cut to the next; with Meet The Residents, you can't predict what you'll be hearing from one moment to the next. Forget about predictions -- you can't always be sure what it is you're actually hearing. A lot of this music is utterly unexplainable. You can't even grasp the 'well-it's-a synthesizer' straw, because this low-budget, 1973 recording was plainly done by hand. It's basically voices, piano, winds, some guitar, bass, drums, brass, violin, and lotsa percussion (undoubtedly including all sorts of household items and toys). There are some distortion effects through mic and instrumental preparations, but it's the Residents' use of tape, the tracks they've razored and overdubbed and remixed and respeeded, which makes their sound so uniquely bizarro. And all these bizarrely unique tracks are served up dripping with a deliberate eccentricity and a playfully grotesque sense of humor. Listening to this music, you can feel the Residents staring straight out at you, their teeth bared in the kind of fixed grin that's ordinarily symptomatic of clinical dementia."

Thanks to  The Residents, Ralph Records, Mute Records, Scott Colburn, Bach Is Dead, Graham and Transmission Entertainment, The Mohawk, Gravelvoice, Wikipedia, The Moles and you for the pix, links, tix, video and other vital information.

The Residents Official Historical Site

Photo by Jerry Milton

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