Like a proto- Negativland meets Primus, The Residents took the world by storm in 1973. Their debut album (pictured here) bore the unmistakable tagline: The First Album by North Louisiana’s Phenomenal Pop Combo. And so it is.
Read more about the album in the Jon Savage essay below.
“Boots” is a sampled and remashed version of “These Boots Are Made for Walking.” ”Gylum Bardot” sounds like a Primus demo. ”Breath and Length” is noise and noise and effects and a soothing female vocal singing the title. “Consuelo’s Departure” is a noisy soundtrack to nothing and “Smelly Tongues” sounds like a hammered dulcimer with a menacing bassline behind it until the vocals come in: “Smelly tongues looked just as they felt”. And all 6 of these songs last less than ten minutes total.
“Rest Aria” changes tempo of things. It’s five minutes long. It starts as a simple piano track (slightly out of tune) but it slowly adds crazy horns and what sounds like children’s instruments. The other longish song, “Spotted Pinto Beans” comes with a kind of faux chorus (female and then male) singing a kind of call and response which is overtaken by noise.
The one-minute “Skratz” comes between these two longer songs and is mostly mumbling spoken vocal. ”Infant Tango” sounds like a normal song. It opens with a funky wah wahed guitar. Of course, the skronking horns and mumbled bass vocals tell you this is not going to be a hit. It runs 6 minutes long with a strange little “guitar solo” in the middle.
“Seasoned Greetings” (with it’s weird holiday wishes at the end) segues into the 9 minute “N-Er-Gee (Crisis Blues”). ”N-Er-Gee” is a piano “melody” which is really someone banging the same notes very hard on the piano. The voice on both tracks sounds like the aural equivalent of blackface until the sample (a very long sample that apparently voided placement on some releases) of “Nobody But You” morphs into a manipulated sampling of the word “boogaloo” and eventually becomes a dissonant chant of the title.
The appended Santa Dog is a bit more song-like. Totally weird songs yes, but there’s actual melodies and lyrics. Like on “Fire”: “Santa dog’s a Jesus fetus.” ”Aircraft Damage” is mostly a bunch of people reciting bizarre lyrics over each other. The whole EP was about 12 minutes. It’s weird but more palatable than the LP.
Despite how much this album foreshadowed loony alternative bands in the future, there is a clear predecessor in Trout Mask Replica. Although Captain Beefheart followed a (relatively) more conventional song structure, you can hear elements of the Beefheart within. This album is also notable for being made in the early 70s when the technology to do this easily was very far away. You could whip this album up in a few minutes now, but back then with splice and paste, it would take ages.
It did not sell as well as the similarly titled Meet the Beatles.
[READ: June 16, 2011] Five Dials Number 11
Five Dials Number 10 was a special issue, but Number 11 goes back to the format we know. It sort of has a theme about lists. It contains half a dozen short essays and one long short story by Paul Murray (author of Skippy Dies). This issue is also something of a surprise as it weighs in at a fairly small 16 pages (sometimes smaller is perfectly fine). The issue also raised a couple of totally weird coincidences which I will point out as they come up.
CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Wilton’s and Lists
Number 10 was designed to be ready for an evening at Wilton’s Music Hall on February 26th. But the real theme of the issue is lists. In part this is inspired by the Raymond Chandler entry, it’s also inspired because Taylor keeps lists around the office. At the end of the letter he provides a list of all of the notes he’d left to himself in the office. Some are about the issue (Paul Murray manuscript), other are seemingly more random (USA 5 Canada 3, men’s Olympic ice hockey result; Canada 7-Russia 3, men’s Olympic ice hockey result; ‘Range Life’–Pavement). And the one that is most coincidental to me–(The Umbrellas of Cherbourg–Jacques Demy). This is coincidental because on the day that I read this, my friend Lar wrote a post about this very movie, which was completely unknown to me.
ROBERTO BOLAÑO-Five Wild Minutes with…
Five Dials continues to amaze me with how many authors they include who I am already a fan of. Here we get Roberto Bolaño. This is an extract from Bolaño’s last interview which was with Mexican Playboy. He talks about what he would be if he weren’t a writer, his preference for The Pogues and Suicide and a very funny comment about posthumous work (“Posthumous: it sounds like the name of a Roman gladiator”)
JON SAVAGE reclaims 1974: A Single Year: The year the sixties ended and the eighties began
Jon Savage wrote the excellent book England’s Dreaming which was a cultural look at music. This article does the same except it focuses specifically on the year 1974. He talks about dozens of great albums that came out that year, and I would love to mention them all, but that would be most of the whole article. The best part of this for me is the bands/albums that I’ve never heard of. Like Sand’s Golem and Cluster’s Zuckerzeit as well as the popular music of the time: Bowie, the Bay City Rollers, Patti Smith. The article ends with a fascinating look at The Residents and their really bizarre album Meet the Residents as well as other releases. Although my friend Lar points out that they may not all be exactly 1974 releases.
Savage concludes his piece with play lists a 5 part collection of playlists that covers Lou Reed, Sparks, Toots and the Maytalls, Steely Dan, Nick Drake, Neil Young and so much more. A truly cool musical appreciation.
This article was the other major coincidence for me. I had just been reading an article in Harper’s earlier that morning. The article is by David Thomson called “When is a Movie Great: The perils of medium and magic.” He talks about the cultural importance of film and how, before the advent of video, movies were simply different. But he also points out that it was the summer of 1975 with the release of Jaws that theaters learned about super summer blockbusters. The reason that 1974 stood out for me is because he talks about the important of The Godfather (1972) which in terms of its greatness is often paired with Part II which was released in 1974. He writes:
Is the year coincidental, or is there a lesson here? I believe there is. The two parts of The Godfather were made just before Jaws and Star Wars changed the commercial reach of moviegoing.
Granted the article doesn’t focus only on 1974 as much (in fact he spends a great deal of time talking about two Lilian Gish films from the 20s), but the focus on that one year was pretty coincidental.
RAYMOND CHANDLER-The List: Unused Book Titles
Chandler apparently created titles for books that he never wrote. (He also created an author and made up titles for him). The list here was found in a notebook of his. Five Dials’ favorite is The Lady with the Truck although I like The Diary of a Loud Check Suit.
PAUL MURRAY-Fiction: Saint Silence
This short story was pretty amazing. It ran through so many emotions in such short space. It opens with humorous mockery. The protagonist is James Duffy a food critic who is full of vitriol and bile and never met a restaurant he liked His reviews are amusing and the tone is nasty but funny.
He eventually winds up at a restaurant that screams pretension: it is run by “monks” and they try to recreate the atmosphere of a monastery. But it is not pretentious or themed, it is actual monks who are selling food to make money for their belltower. The monks grow all of their own food on the premises. And they have taken a vow of silence. Their food is good, wholesome, and frankly amazing.
So, what is he to do when he raves about a place (his ratings go down unless he’s nasty). Indeed, Duffy is impressed with the monks, in particular the one monk who has waited on him He finds this monk’s silence to be amazing; his whole being seems to radiate peace and calm–honest generosity. And James finds himself wanting to confide in the monk.
He invites the monk to dinner with him, to get this pure man’s opinion of foods. And from there, the story gets much much darker. There is a great sadness that rests on top of the story despite all of its apparent humor and snarkiness. It’s a great story indeed.
ALAIN DE BOTTON-The Agony Uncle
This issue’s advice comes from a banker who is freaking out over the global economy. De Botton talks about how business’ only real goal is profit. So even when employees feel that the company owes them, really all it owes is to be profitable, whether you get in the way or not. Not a comforting thought but sound advice.
MELISSA BRODER-Poem African Priestess, Columbus Circle
I did not enjoy this poem very much.
ILLUSTRATIONS by KATE BLAND
Unusual looking pencil line drawings that feel like she never lifted he pencil off the paper.
For ease of searching, I include: Roberto Bolano.