I honestly never thought I’d hear from The Residents again. I believed the demise of Residents, Uninc meant the band was no more, but it turns out that was merely the controlling business entity. Given the name, it’s clear that the band was handling its own affairs, which explains a lot about the decisions that were made. The Residents are pure artists, and I respect that, but they have poor business acumen. The smartest move they could make would be to let someone else take over the business side.
According to the liner notes, The Residents are now managed by The Cryptic Corporation (which is not the fan club I thought it to be last year). Apart from creating a mailing list of customers, their first order of business was to get the band back in the studio and put out a new record before everyone forgot about them. The next order of business was to have artwork created that’s not going to get them sued. These are very smart business decisions, so maybe The Residents will last a few years yet.
The cover is compelling, looking as it does like a surrealist daguerreotype. Gone are the juvenile drawings poking fun at popular culture. Here’s an attempt to create an original image (unless I’m mistaken and this is an authentic photograph from the 1920s – in any case it’s an improvement and as a result the band looks respectable).
The music matches the image in being far more mature than previous attempts, and has a definite ethereal and surrealist feel to it. Once again The Residents have made a stark division between sides of the record. The first side is a collection of eight songs, most under three minutes – The Residents’ version of pop music. As before, they are simultaneously embracing and rejecting the received wisdom of the form
The second side is a single piece called “Six Things To A Cycle” which the liner notes state has been written for a ballet. It is heavily percussive in nature, and owes a lot to non-Western music and the unclassifiable music of composers like Harry Partch and Moondog. Despite the sweeping differences of the two sides, the album feels unified, and all in all is an incredible improvement over their previous work. I find myself wanting more, and hope the well from which Fingerprince was siphoned isn’t dry.
But once again The Residents have decided to remind us of their unreleased second album. I hope it remains unreleased, because sounding like Fingerprince is the direction they should be taking, not reverting back to their early days of amatuer performance and creating medleys of other people’s songs.