Some of the things you’ll hear in the Residents’ 1974 debut: Arabic woodwinds, Bertold Brecht, African percussion, cartoon muzak, Gamelan orchestras, commercial jingles, military marches, Martin Denny, 1920s big band, garage rock and Rachmaninoff. Unlike Devo, who also formed in 1972 and share a theatrical Dadaist approach, the Residents didn’t play anything that could remotely be considered rock music, even as they wreaked havoc with a number of popular music motifs.
Possible inspirations for Meet the Residents are the experimental maximalism of Zappa and Beefheart, John Cage’s embrace of chaos and the homespun inventions of Harry Partch, but their brilliance lies in collaging less avant-garde elements like vaudeville, early rock ‘n’ roll, world music and snippets of pop culture in “songs” that were as disorienting as the barrage of media and consumerism they subtly critiqued – the medium is the message, indeed.
The first six songs are fractured into fragments (beginning with a take on “These Boots Were Made For Walking”) and form a “suite” of sorts, though the remaining songs are no more coherent. Attempting to describe each track is a losing battle, but it should be noted that for all its seemingly childlike shenanigans, there is groove here, and even emotion. An album that belongs in every music lover’s cocktail-party arsenal.