Regular readers of this blog know that we can be procrastinators sometimes. We reply to comments days after they’ve been posted; we announce little things like bands getting new lead singers two months after the fact. Hey, a blog this good takes time to craft, okay? That and we may be easily distracted. Squirrel!
So please forgive us, dear reader Mike, for taking nearly two years since your comment suggesting that we add Renaldo and the Loaf to the Weird List to finally, you know, add Renaldo and the Loaf to the Weird List. We’ve been working our way up to it. (And yeah, we know, no Butthole Surfers yet, either. We’re working on that one, too.)
For those of you not familiar (and there probably aren’t many of you, since at least 10 other people* since Mike have also recommended them to us), Renaldo and the Loaf are a British duo best-known for a series of albums they released in the ’80s on Ralph Records, the label run by one of their biggest influences, The Residents. Using various tape delays and effects to distort vocals, guitars, drums and other mostly acoustic instruments, they created songs that unfurled like carnival music for lunatic asylums, full of oddly tuned guitars, funhouse percussion, nonsense lyrics, start-stop rhythms and a general sense of silliness that many a pretentious “avant-garde” recording artist could stand to learn from.
Most folks probably discovered R&L with their first Ralph Records album, 1981′ s Songs for Swinging Larvae. But Dave “Ted the Loaf” Janssen and Brian “Renaldo Malpractice” Poole actually first began making music together about a decade earlier, as they outline in the somewhat patchy autobiography on their official website. Fun fact: one of their earliest influences was
T. Rex Tyrannosaurus Rex, the early, psychedelic folk incarnation of the band that would later come to be known as T. Rex.
After they hooked up with The Residents, R&L cranked out a bunch of music, including reissues of some of their earlier material, three studio albums, and a collaboration with The Residents called Title in Limbo. But by 1988, they had decided to call it quits. Since then, both have continued to release music through various projects on their own: Brian Poole in collaboration with various artists under names like Fiction Friends and Shouting Hat, Dave Janssen mostly solo as Mr. Sneff, The Darkening Scale and The Tapeworm Vessel (the latter with Sylvie Walder). Janssen has also remixed a lot of old R&L material and posted most of the results on his website, where you can download them (along with his various solo efforts) for free.
In 2007, Poole and Janssen reunited to write some new songs for the soundtrack to an independent film called Kirk Mannican’s Liberty Mug. You can listen to one of the new(ish) tunes on Janssen’s website, buy the whole soundtrack (most of which, fair warning, is not Renaldo and the Loaf) or watch the whole film for a mere $2.99 on Amazon, of all places. Remember when you had to drive to some sketchy “artist’s district” and paw through milk crates full of old VHS tapes in the dimly lit back of an “independent” video store to find such treasures? Oh, Internet, you make our lives so hassle-free.
Renaldo & the Loaf fans are a technologically adept bunch, so practically everything the duo ever recorded has been uploaded on YouTube. But apart from the occasional fan-made video, very little visual accompaniment to their music exists. They never really cashed in on the whole MTV thing and their only live performance, in 1980, was not videotaped. (It was, however, recorded and just released on CD for the first time this year, along with a reissue of their first album, Struvé and Sneff; only 500 copies were made, but if any are left you can order one from this place called the Klanggalerie.)
Fortunately, however, we do still have access to a short film from 1981 called “Songs for Swinging Larvae,” based on portions of various tracks from the album of the same name. It is literally the All-Time Most Posted Video in Our User Comments, so most of you have probably seen it by now—but it’s worth watching again. By now, that little kid must be pushing 40. And he probably still has an irrational fear of hair rollers and hand puppets.
*Others who have repeatedly suggested we write about Renaldo and the Loaf: Hambu hodo, TommyTopHat, Melody Felicia-Baril McGinn, EThan and Frederson. Sorry it took so long, y’all.