With The Bunny Boy, The Residents have returned to their mid-1990s mindset of exploring the interactive capabilities of modern technology. While River of Crime was presented as a podcast, experiencing it as it happened will be no different than experiencing it in the future. The Bunny Boy is an event, happening now, and if viewed years later will lose some of its effectiveness.
Part of that is the luxury granted by the nature of events unfolding in real time. Many of the videos completely fail to move the plot forward; they act only as reminders that the saga continues. If this were to be presented as a finished project, it would need to be edited down to story beats with a clear narrative. The attempt here is to replicate reality; finely tuned stories are wonderful (and naturally my preference), but I do recognize that they sacrifice realism for structure.
The lack of structure is such that The Residents themselves do not know where the story is going. Viewers are invited to interact via email, with the implication that they can influence what happens. Bunny has already shared some of the messages he’s received, though those were obviously scripted by The Residents. That could, however, simply be a matter of needing a backlog of content ready before the series ever premiered. Future episodes will likely have real viewer interaction.
The format of this project is an extreme swing of the pendulum in the world of The Residents. Overall, they have been presenting an almost schizophrenic image the past few years. Their releases have been bouncing back and forth between tightly controlled affairs and more open collaborations. The albums alternate between single voice and full cast. They even allowed the public to submit their own videos for a recent DVD. This, along with the latest strategy of inviting fans to shape the project itself almost feels as if they are holding open auditions for future colleagues.
The Residents has always been a philosophy more than a group, but has (probably) always consisted of the same core individuals. The alternation between core and open collaboration might be a planned transitional period. From the collaboration side might emerge a new group that also works under the moniker of The Residents, which eventually takes over completely. That would certainly explain the incredibly varied and prolific output of the past few years.
It’s always tricky to think about replacements in music. There are plenty of bands who continue to exist with few original members. But replacements also stamp their own indelible mark on the proceedings. David Gilmour is not an original member of Pink Floyd but has done so much that he could probably get away with using the name while replacing everyone else. It’s the proverbial axe that gets a new head and sometime later a new handle. Is it still the same axe?
The Bunny Boy approaches this question obliquely. No answer is offered, but the scenario underlies much of what happens. Though the story is in progress as I write this, it seems clear that Bunny is Harvey, and he’s had a break with reality. He’s a replacement, though one that mostly fits the description of what originally belongs.
Several songs on the album reflect this as well, having no musical distinction between verse and chorus – the usual ABACAB structure is replaced with an AAAAAA structure. There’s that word “replace” again, and I do think this is intentional. As listeners we can identify the verse and chorus sections of a song like “Boxes of Armageddon” thanks to the production and arrangement, but if we pay attention we realize they have the same chords and melody. This mirrors Bunny/Harvey and the way he has replaced himself. The first song with a different structure, “I’m Not Crazy,” explicitly talks about a personality change. This pattern isn’t cleanly followed throughout, but there’s enough to warrant consideration.
So we’re left wondering what happens to The Residents next. Where does the rabbit hole lead?