Album Review
by SashaS

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The Residents: ahead of tomorrow...
The Residents: 'Commercial Album DVD'
The Residents: the ultimate mystic band

Despite cloning as the sincerest form of bad taste in the music biz, we look for activists for taste and persuaders of art craving. This is serious… The Residents are not for the pusillanimous devotees, for the casual lover of avanti-tuned music, for amateur-indie kids… The Residents have been subverting the mainstream/over-/underground for nigh to a quartet of decades.

Emerging out of somewhere - Shreverport, Louisiana, allegedly - in 1966, they relocated to California and founded own/cult label Ralph that issued their proper debut ‘Meet The Residents’ in 1974. The sophomore LP, ‘The Third Reich’n’Roll’ (1976), seemed even to make Frank Zappa sound rightwing. The band’s reconstructed version of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’ should be in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame as the best cover ever!

For those unfamiliar with The Residents, and that’s a shameful majority, the group is now entering its fourth decade as faceless anti-stars, existing in the dim outskirts of mass awareness. During that entire time, they've consciously kept their origins, identities and personal lives cloaked in secrecy. The creation of this obviously contrived "mystery" was one of the first decisions they reached after realising that they had become a group - something they define as an organism with a mind, will and direction of its own.

The essence of this decision was to build a ‘wall’ that separates their personal and professional lives. Anonymity was, and is, their only rule. They live by it to this day. Since, in 1980, the nature of their music prohibited access to pop radio, The Residents originally envisioned the ‘Commercial Album’, as a reinvention of the Top Forty format by creating 40 one-minute songs - 60 seconds being the length of a typical TV commercial. With this concept the group attempted to revolutionise the way popular music was listened to.

The concept behind the material is explained in these 5 points:

P1: Pop music is mostly a repetition of two types of musical and lyrical phrases, the verse and the chorus.
P2: These elements usually repeat three times in a three minute pop song
P3: Eliminate the excess and a pop song is only one minute long.
P4: One minute is also the length of most commercials, and therefore their corresponding jingles.
P5: Jingles are the folk music of America.

In 1980 The Residents created four short films based on ‘Commercial Album’ songs. Long considered as groundbreaking music videos, these films are now part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. [Told ya this was serious stuff.] To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release, the DVD compliments and completes the project with an amazing collection of 56 one-minute films based on the original 40 ‘Commercial Album’ songs.

In order to produce this large number of films The Residents [responsible for ten new clips] have assembled an outstanding group of 42 visual artists from around the world. Working in various forms ranging from animation, live action, and puppetry to drawing, photography and sculpture, the disc is a virtual film festival in miniature. The DVD also has an innovative game-like interface that allows viewers to explore a maze in the process of viewing the videos.

This complex of rooms contains an unpredictable series of interactive features as it reveals the 56 videos created by The Residents and their all-star cast of visual collaborators. It is not easy viewing as it challenges every concept you may have about video clips by being an anti-thesis to crap vids-as-promo’s ethic.

We once had AC/DC, we now have CC/DC: credit and debit cards. We still have The Residents… ‘Don’t diss before you weetness’, a Rasta mate is fond of pointing out.

The Residents are without features, futures, pasts or presence, are about music, culture, creativity and chaos, they’ve never been in and never will be, The Residents are… God.

??/10 [Who dares score a divinity?]
~ ~ ~

With The Residents' 'Commercial Album DVD', as well as the re-issue of ‘The Commercial Album’ compact disc, out on the same day, Mute Records and The Residents plan to re-release several refurbished back catalogue items featuring occasional bonus discs, a new album in 2005, and a future filled with featureless products.

‘The Residents’ Commercial Album DVD’ is released 25 October 2004 by Cryptic/Mute Films

A re-release of the landmark ‘Commercial Album’ is also out on CD