The Residents are one of the least conventional bands in the history of rock music. They have released many different records from many different corners of the musical spectrum, often creating their own corner to be in. Parodying the Beatles in the title and artwork of this record, released in 1974, ‘Meet the Residents’ is a far cry from ‘Meet the Beatles!’. In their own unique way, the Residents are like the Beatles of the rock n’ roll fringe.
With over half of the tracks on the record clocking in at less than two minutes, much of them feel connected as if to be one song with different movements and themes. The opening track, “Boots”, referencing Nancy Sinatra’s hit “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”, will probably be the only moment of relative familiarity the average listener could be subjected to. Moving down the record a bit, we find the track “Spotted Pinto Bean”, which has vaudeville’s hands all over it. Perhaps, the only contemporary material coming out around this time was some of Alice Cooper’s more vaudevillian works (“Mary Ann”, for example). “Spotted Pinto Bean”, unlike “Mary Ann”, doesn’t even make an attempt at being accessible to the masses. The mysteriousness surrounding the Residents, which largely exists to this very day, makes it rather difficult to understand a distinct motive behind a track like this, but it does seem fair to say that this band didn’t give a damn about commercial aspirations. This makes it all the more clever that they would parody ‘Meet the Beatles!’, considering how blatantly commercial and accessible of a record it is. After this track we get “Infant Tango”, which would give Captain Beefheart a run for his money, even at his most far out. The interesting thing about this record and the Residents in general, is trying to understand what it is that makes them create. What motivates them? To simply write them off as shock value is foolish. This is a band that seems to have their quirky version of the avant-garde calculated in such a precise fashion that they almost dare you to listen to their material. It’s as if the natural intrigue that this band possesses is taunting you to find out what was really on their minds. This is exactly what makes them so interesting. Almost more than any other act, they’re a complete enigma. This takes us to what is arguably the strangest track on the whole record, “N-ER-GEE (Crisis Blues)”, which starts out by telling a story on Christmas morning of all things, before lending itself to an extended instrumental passage, then coming around for its ultimate inconclusive conclusion.
Yes folks, the Residents are as weird as you’ve heard advertised. No question about that. Many people will probably be turned off by their absolute disavowal of any and all popular music conventions. Some listeners may even find them snobbish, arrogant, and off-putting. However, if you are someone who has a taste for the avant-garde and aren’t turned off by extreme experimentation, you might find this record to your liking. You never really can tell with a band this far out there, so don’t be shy. Dig in to the bizarre world of the Residents. This isn’t their best record, mind you. Some of side one’s less than two minute songs are less memorable than others. For a point of entry with this band, however, it’s as good of a place to start as any other.