Pop Culture Gadabout
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
      ( 8/12/2008 10:50:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"ALL THE SHEEP HAVE FOLLOWED THE SPOKEN WORD I'M COMING CONSTANTINOPLE" Even a hard-core pop-rock junkie can occasionally feel the urge for some bracingly ugly music: in the late sixties, that need was best met by Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention; in the late seventies, it was a group of anonymous wiseasses named the Residents. Through a series of albums which simultaneously built upon and deconstructed Top Forty tropes (Meet the Residents, The Third Reich 'n' Roll, Fingerprince), this band of faceless conceptualists produced an amazing catalog of comically abrasive anti-pop pop: music designed to get on the nerves of even those who thought that punk was the pinnacle of musical rebelliousness.

Of the early Residents' releases, perhaps their best-known - and most accessible - was 1978's Duck Stab. Recently reissued by Mute Records in a handsomely designed hardbound booklet/CD, Stab first was released as a seven-song EP, which quickly was coupled with a second EP (Buster & Glen) into long-playing format. This gives the full disc a sort of Magical Mystery Tour feel - with two blocs of music jostling against each other. The disc's opening track "Constantinople" even gets reiterated with the chaotic seventh blues jazz cut "Elvis and His Boss," providing a sense of closure to the first batch of songs even if, lyrically, the listener doesn't really have a clue as to what it's really all about.

With the exception of one instrumental ("Booker Tease," which blends a soulful bassline with shrieking hornwork), the two sets of music follow a similar strategy: hooky tunework subverted by out-of-tune instrumentation - some of which sounds like the background arrangement from some old warped '78 - dadaesque poetry and cartoonish vocals which manage to make Captain Beefheart sound mainstream. In "Blue Rosebuds," for instance, a damaged singer's sappy love song is interrupted by a high-pitched voice declaiming absurdist putdowns ("Infection is your finest flower mildewed in the midst"), while "Sinister Exaggerator" undercuts its effectively ominous guitar stabs (courtesy of guest fingerman Snakefinger) with a barking background chorus that sounds like something the Manimals on the island of Dr. Moreau might've chanted. Good ambient music for those who've used the soundtrack to Eraserhead to put 'em to sleep at nights: the "In Heaven" song could've easily been non-sung by a Resident in one of his little girl voices.

Many of the songs that make up the second half of the disc (a.k.a. the Buster & Glen EP) toy with the themes of disconnected families ("Birthday Boy," "Lizard Lady") and body dysmorphia that the group would return to in their groundbreaking Freak Show CD-Rom. "Weight Lifting Lulu" features a narrator who's simultaneously appalled and aroused by his girlfriend's physique ("I hated your body but needed your touch."), while "Hello Skinny" describes a noodle-thin entrepreneur who sells a used copy of a Hello Dolly record to a truck driver - climaxing in a tuneless rendition of that musical's show stopping chorus. The whole shmear concludes with "The Electrocutioner," a warped little ditty sung by Ruby of the long-departed Rick & Ruby comedy troupe, a group with ties to Peewee Herman's old live comedy shows.

Depending on your tolerance for willful weirdness, you've either stopped listening to Duck Stab long before the Buster & Glen bits or immediately hit "replay" when you get to the end. To test their admirers' perspicacity, the group would follow this release with Eskimo, a totally tuneless aural collage filled with wind sounds, barks and grunts which purports to tell a tale of life in the frozen North. I still don't know what to make of that puppy - also recently reissued by Mute - but I'll happily cop to loudly singin' along with Stab's "Constantinople."
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:

A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page

Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine


Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery


Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett


Michael's Movie Palace

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag


News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

Peter David

Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Marc Bernardin

Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby


The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter

A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.

My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Roy Edroso


Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman


Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends

Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed

Powered by Blogger

    follow me on Twitter