The Residents have a new single to promote their latest album that, true to their fashion, is only tangentially related to the album. It’s “This Is A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown, but it is not at all in the same style as their work on George & James.
The eyeball is back, so we must be on the lookout for social commentary. There’s one in the lyrics of the song, of course, but since it is not written (or even rewritten) by The Residents, we need to look somewhere else for their message.
This James Brown rendition is the most normal music I’ve heard from The Residents. Since it follows the strangest music I’ve ever heard, it must have been intentional. The musical arrangement is very similar to the original, and played very well, demonstrating that The Residents could, if they so desired, record a pop hit. As for the vocals, they’ve done the opposite of their treatment of Live At The Apollo and pitched them up. I experimented with playing this record at 33 RPM, and it’s too slow, but sounds close to right. If I could play this record at 40 RPM I bet it could be a mainstream hit.
And that I think is the statement they are making. They are saying it is easy to record a song that can become a hit and make lots of money. They could do it at any time. But they have always chosen not to. Even this time, they’ve gotten it just right, and then purposefully altered the speed to keep it from ever becoming a massive crowd favorite. But why would they not choose easy money and fame? Because to them, doing something easy is boring. Sounding like a standard band is boring. Sounding like The Residents, on the other hand, is not. It may be difficult, it may be terrible, but it’s definitely something we’re not likely to have heard before.
Regardless of the statement they are making with this recording, The Residents are definitely complimentary towards James Brown, continuing the theme from their latest album. It’s too early to tell, but maybe they have even backed away entirely from destructions of other people’s music. It’s quite incredible to think that George & James and The White Single come from the same group that gave us The Third Reich ‘n’ Roll and its companion single, Satisfaction.
And just like that earlier single, the flipside is an original composition. “Safety Is A Cootie Wootie” begins with a lullaby sung to a child and then describes the singer’s dreams. Clearly one of The Residents is now a parent, or rather became one some years ago. This song is billed as “unreleased,” a term applied to released music only when it has been kept in storage for a long time (nobody ever markets brand new material as “unreleased”). It’s obvious this song was a contender for Residue Of The Residents, but its length kept it from being included. Thematically it belongs to my imagined Dreams album, putting it with “The Sleeper” and “Ups & Downs.” So if I had to guess, I’d place fatherhood around the time of The Commercial Album. That explains the short songs (no time to work on full length compositions), and Goosebump. Though it doesn’t explain them diving into the large Mole Trilogy project, which this record boldly proclaims it is not a part of.
If The White Single is a mirror of Satisfaction, then I’m tempted to think “Loser ≅ Weed” is also from the Dreams album, but that’s grasping at straws (despite it having some melodic similarities with “Safety”). No, The Residents are responsible adults now, and have moved on from their amateurish disposition of – gosh, has it been ten years already? If it’s been that long, I could be incorrect about their purposefully choosing to produce music in strange ways. It could be they are finally on the cusp of realizing their dreams of being rich and boring.