Yearly Archives: 1988

In Dreams I’ve Listened To The Well-Known Words (God In Three Persons Soundtrack)

And to complete the holy trinity, an album of just the words.A few months back The Residents released their greatest work. And they’ve been expanding it with additional offerings, each illuminating a different aspect of that work. First there was the single for “Double Shot,” the song whose riff was liberally borrowed for God In Three Persons. Scheduled for release is another remix single, but what we have right now is a soundtrack version of the original album.

It is important to note the use of the word “soundtrack.” They’ve been dabbling in legitimate soundtrack work recently, but this release takes that concept a bit further. This isn’t the soundtrack to a film, but rather to an album. However, this is not merely an instrumental version. Indeed, many of the Greek chorus elements remain. But the monologue that tells the story has been stripped completely. It’s a new voice for The Residents. Not in the sense that a different person stepped in front of the microphone, but in the sense that a new character was brought to life. We’ve heard plain, unprocessed speaking before with The Residents, but never to this extent. Never the character of Mr. X Indeed. Never The Storyteller.

The Storyteller took center stage, and in only a few minutes became the definitive voice of The Residents. But the group, well aware of where attention would be focused, took steps to strike a balance between their new star player and everything else that constitutes the collective. They released a single of one song they borrowed, to emphasize the influence. Likewise, I expect “Holy Kiss Of Flesh” will prominently feature “Holy Holy Holy,” and – though not yet on the release schedule – there will probably be a release of “Ooo Baby Baby,” finishing out the trilogy of borrowed melodies that The Residents wish to properly credit.

And even on the original album, the first track is dedicated to naming their collaborators. Not only those who participated in the recording, but also the photographer. On the one hand this demonstrates that the full package is considered as the artwork – there is no delineation between what is recorded and what is seen. (And it’s also notable that the mere existence of a soundtrack to an album asks for the piece to be considered as one would consider a film.) But on the other hand – and I think this is the stronger reason – The Residents wish to open up more.

The album contained a brief note about Phillip “Snakefinger” Lithman, who died tragically, suddenly, before he could participate in the recording. Losing him is a terrible blow to The Residents, and I believe the more prominent list of credits is a direct result of that. The Residents want to make sure they publicly express appreciation for their collaborators while those same collaborators are still alive to see it. As much as The Residents are a mysterious amorphous entity, there are in fact real people that create The Residents, and those real people hurt, and love, and fear, and celebrate just as much as anyone.

This is a turning point for the group. Many artists have what can be called an early period and a late period, and The Residents have just crossed over. They will never be the same, and they are going to lose fans. But just as importantly, they are going to gain new fans as well.

The music of God In Three Persons is precise, clean. In that respect it hearkens back to their version of “It’s A Man’s World,” but unlike that effort this one maintains a strange and experimental nature. The Residents have discovered they can have it both ways: they can make innovative and bizarre music while keeping a sheen of mainstream pop sensibility. It is a wonderfully subversive way to package their product.  The back cover reveals that the project was originally conceived as a theatrical piece.  Whether that will ever come to pass, I don’t know.  It could be amazing or it could be terrible.  But it would definitely be interesting.

They’re Always Touching Always Looking In A Secret Way (God In Three Persons)

Loving both of you is breaking all the rules.The Cryptic Corp proudly presents a new album from The Residents that is entitled God In Three Persons.  It’s a double-length LP, the first in their long history, and has been pressed onto clear vinyl.  The cover art is visually striking and may not be to everyone’s liking, but since when has that been a worry for this group?

The opening track sounds very odd if only for the fact it’s not strange by standards of the mainstream.  Keyboard, bass, drums and strings are accompanied by a voice that sings in a tone that is quite lovely.  Already we know that this album is the first in what will become a brand new direction for this band: replace the strange with the normal, the casual punk with business formal, and let the story take center stage.

“It’s stranger if it’s normal.”

The music must be somewhat subdued in order to give the breathing room the narrator needs to tell us his tale.  But it doesn’t just sit aside and function merely to provide something to listen to when there is no talking.  It meanders and moves right along with the vocal, making songs and not just accompaniment to unrelated words.  And that perhaps is its strongest aspect: it allows the listener to accept the narrative as something not so extraordinary… at first.

But of course the story is weird.  For anyone who may have feared The Residents have gone straight, nothing could be further from the truth.  But perhaps for the very first time the music does not align itself with the words in terms of oddity.  By providing a bed of normalcy the music sets the story free to jump off from that point and to explore.  In the past The Residents would have been more than content to grab the listener with a shocking start, but by using first person point of view they get to pull the audience into a tale far more twisted than any they could have told before.  The story opens in much the way as any that could happen every day – namely, a chance meeting of strangers on the street.  Our narrator meets a pair who have a certain savoir faire that isn’t explained to us at the start.  Mr. X immediately sees a money making opportunity in exploiting the charisma of these two.  And so it is for all of side A – it sounds like a man who wants his way with a potential lover he has found.  But then we get to the second side where the narrator finally provides us with the details that had been present all along: these two are Siamese twins and have a special power within them to heal the sick and even raise the dead.  If the story had started here it would have been difficult to steer the listener along the same path the narrator’s journey takes.

“We live this story too.”

And it is this narrative tool – a very gradual deliberate pull from the ordinary to the outlandish – that encourages the audience to invest themselves in the protagonist’s quest through the story and not give up from the start.  The Residents have proven to be storytellers beyond any degree that they have demonstrated in the past.  Here is a story of betrayal, redemption and how love prevails – not happily, but also not without hope.  Though the details are peculiar, the emotions are quite familiar to anyone who has experienced love and loss.

There are some who will take offense at the subject matter The Residents have opted to use in writing this magnificent album.  And for that I am distraught, for the greatest barrier to developing thought is an aversion to that which one finds distasteful.  This is clearly their best work to date and I would absolutely hate for it to be marginalized for its sometimes shocking nature.  Sometimes you must look well past the prejudices you have amassed in order to find a deeper truth of life.