Jake and I debated for hours over which band should be the subject of our First Ever Post, but in the end, there was only one band we could agree on: The Residents. Weird bands don’t come any weirder than this mysterious foursome, who have been cranking out bizarre, experimental music (some of which most folks probably wouldn’t even call “music”) for about four decades.
Right from the get-go, The Residents were unlike anything that come before them. They kept their identities secret and rarely gave live performances until the early ’80s, when they finally began doing concerts dressed in matching tuxedos, top hats and giant eyeball masks. Their albums were pastiches of tape loop samples from other recordings, atonal skronk, carnivalesque psych-rock and avant-garde noise. They are perhaps best-known for 1980’s Commercial Album, a collection of 40 one-minute songs that the band explained could be rendered into conventional pop songs just by playing them three times in a row. To get the songs on San Francisco Top 40 radio, the band bought advertising time and broadcast them as commercials.
We know you’re probably asking yourself: Why the one skull mask? In 1985, the lead singer’s eyeball mask was stolen, so he replaced it with a giant skull mask and changed his stage name to “Mr. Skull.” When a fan returned the old eyeball mask, the band announced that the mask was now “unclean” and therefore would be retired. See? It all makes perfect sense.
We could go on about how unbelievably weird The Residents are, but honestly, our writing skills are probably not up to the task. Instead, we leave you with this video
from one of their live shows. [Update: The video we originally posted has been removed, but this music video is actually way cooler anyway.] This song, “Constantinople” (not to be confused with the catchy ditty popularized by They Might Be Giants), comes from the 1978 album Duck Stab/Buster & Glen, which is widely considered to be one of the band’s more “accessible” efforts. Accessible to who, exactly, we’re not sure.