Yearly Archives: 1983

Some Of The Strangest Specimens Ever Gathered Together (Title In Limbo)

I never had a pet monkey, but I did have a rabbit named Melanie. Two, actually.Given the time it took to record their second album, I would not have expected another release from Renaldo & The Loaf for at least three years, but here’s one relatively on the heels of Arabic Yodeling. I had predicted that their music would continue its trend of calming down and they’d likely find themselves doing film soundtracks before long. But that trajectory may have been altered through a direct interference by The Residents.

These two groups have combined forces to create Tittle In Limo. More often than not, collaborative efforts are dominated by one of the participants and sound like a standard album with a special guest appearance, but this feels like a true partnership. For the most part it seems like Renaldo & The Loaf are responsible for the music with the Residents providing lyrics, though there are a few instances where the opposite happens (“Sitting On The Sand”) or something emerges that’s not easily assigned to one of the constituent groups (I find “Africa Tree” to be the truest marriage of the two).

Sometimes Turtle In Lima takes our normal expectations of what these artists do and mixes them. “Woman’s Weapon” sounds like a Residents lyric sung by Renaldo while “Horizontal Logic” is the mirror. There is little information about instrumentation, but I’d not be surprised if the artists swapped roles in that regard as well.  Drums played by a guitarist, and vice-versa. All in all, they have done a very good job in assigning performance duties to make this a singular album. With few exceptions, these songs would be out of place if recorded and released by either one of these groups.

However, there are moments when Toggle In Lambda feels a bit rushed or unfinished. “Sitting On The Sand” has just one musical idea, a repeating loop of a guitar with nonsense lyrics filling the short space of a minute and a half. “Horizontal Logic” is similarly short and obtuse, but this time with a quiet driving pattern. “Monkey And Bunny,” conversely, is a long song with good but abbreviated lyrics. But this in no way makes Tootle In Loco a bad album. It just makes one long for more. If this it out there, what else is to be found? This is a great album that has a few faults that work well to enhance what it does well.

Tattle In Logo has no overarching theme or concept, despite the similarly titled “Intro: Version” and “Extra: Version” (a friend of mine claims that any record that has a reprise must be a concept album). For The Residents this is the second in a row – I wonder if their Mole trilogy is losing some of its creative appeal? Perhaps they have found themselves painted into a corner and were looking for a way to break out, and this project is an attempt to do that.  An outside influence is often just what is needed to get out of a rut. Maybe it is Renaldo & The Loaf who are going to change the trajectory of The Residents, and not the reverse. But as Mr. Belmont reminds his physics students down the hall, nothing actually survives a collision completely intact – it just works out easier that way on paper.  So I expect that both of these groups are going to have a significant change in their next offerings.

Though Total In Llama may have been born out of convenience or creative stagnation, the result is much more phenomenal than a mere distraction has any right to be. I hope it acts as the roadblock breaker the groups need (The Residents need to get back to themed projects; Renaldo & The Loaf need to work more quickly), but I would not be at all disappointed to see more albums like this. Take two idiosyncratic artists and see what happens when you put them together. It can’t always be magic, but it can often be interesting, and when it works, it works very well.

The Part Of The Pork Chop That You Left Behind (Residue Of The Residents)

This drawing of The Residents is the closest we'll ever get to knowing their true personalities.The latest Residents album is not part three of the Mole Trilogy (it explicitly states so on the cover) and in fact has no story or theme at all. It’s a compilation album, but the songs are for the most part unreleased, and the rest were only available on limited releases. The Residents, it is implied, approach every project as a concept. While that can be seen in many of their releases, I wonder what the concept of Duck Stab was. Or Fingerprince. Certainly not a story. Not song length. Maybe some inside joke the band won’t let us in on? Or something in the sound, perhaps?

Sound plays a very important role with The Residents. The song “Boy In Love” here is said to be musically similar to Mark Of The Mole, the album during which it sprung. I have trouble reconciling the song with the album because to me they sound so incredibly different. If I concentrate deeply, I can imagine this song arranged and performed as if it came from that album, but only for fleeting moments. This recording does provide evidence that The Residents were considering emotional depth for the album, and purposefully chose to remove it (which I still disagree with, but perhaps the fact that it still affects me years later is why they did it).

This collection also features songs that were cut from The Tunes Of Two Cities. Indeed, a full third of the songs here are related to the Mole Trilogy, which might explain the protesting disclaimer. Of these, I think “Open Up” is the strongest, but were I to reinstate it I don’t know which song I would choose to remove.

“Ups & Downs” is a song that was adapted to fit with the concept of The Commercial Album. That would place this original earlier than that, and it does bear a similar sound to “The Sleeper” from 1979. I wonder if these two songs, which both have sleeping as a theme, are part of an abandoned project about dreams. In that case, Residue Of The Residents is not just “mop tapes” but also the burial ground for unfinished projects.

“Walter Westinghouse” is quite interesting, and perhaps the standout song on this collection, from its complex rhythms and synthesizer sounds that are both upsetting and inviting, to the tour de force of the lead singer’s vocalizations. But more interesting than hearing him perform in several different voices is the assertion that this song was intended for side three of Fingerprince, which I did not know was originally supposed to be a double album. I suppose their Beatles single (also with a hand motif in its artwork) was slated to be part of side four.  This delving into their past is quite enlightening.

However, the song “Saint Nix” is said to have been recorded in mid-1974, and only the vocal re-recorded recently. But the music sounds too modern – I can’t believe it is from the time between their first two albums. It does, however, sound like it could be from my proposed dreams album. The lyrics read just like somebody recalling a dream, after all.

I’m trying to think of a way to sum up this collection as a whole, and I cannot. It really does feel like unrelated leftover pieces brought together to fill the length of an album. Earlier I said I did not know the concepts behind some other Residents albums, but at least I do recognize them as distinct works. Whatever unified them is not in play here. It’s not a bad collection, and could well be used as an introduction, but it just doesn’t feel like The Residents. The parts add up to be less than the whole, whereas a Residents album is usually greater than its contents.

Perhaps the actual concept of this collection is to make a “normal” record. They’ve failed, of course. But in a world with so many normal albums, I don’t want them to succeed in adding another.