Art Review, 2006
by Simon Reynolds
Before they’d even released their debut album, 1973’s Meet the Residents, the band had embarked on a movie, Vileness Fats, intended to be the world’s first fourteen-hour musical-comedy-romance set in a world of one-armed midgets. The project was pursued fitfully for four years only to be abandoned in 1976. But the warehouse HQ on Grove Street did spew out a stream of innovative and derangingly strange music videos and short films, and these, along with footage from the aborted Vileness, are now being honored with a MOMA retrospective.
The four One-Minute Movies for the sixty-second tracks off 1980’s Commercial Album are visual haikus as exquisitely eerie as the tunes, full of images that linger in the memory: a female corpse cocooned in cob-webs, a rheumy-eyed geezer watching TV on a bare mattress who suddenly levitates to the ceiling, a dead pig with roman candles stuck between its trotters. In several of these micro-movies, The Residents appear in their famous Fred Astaire meets Un Chien Andalou image: the elegance of top-hats, tails, and canes disrupted by the gigantic, veiny eyeballs that completely replace their heads. A fractured tale about a mis-shapen misfit with Zelig-like traits of recurrence and ubiquity, Hello Skinny (1980) pays homage to Chris Marker’s La Jetée with its black-and-white stills, the collaging of photographic and drawn material further recalling Terry Gilliam’s animations for Monty Python.
What the later Residents work, like the flat and strangely static 2000 video for “Constantinople”, shows is that 98 times out of 100, analog trumps digital. Computers can create the most superficially “fanstastical” images, but because you literally can’t believe your eyes, there’s no sense of the unheimlich, none of that “dreamed” quality possessed by the Residents’ early work, made when the group had to get by with hand-made props, stage sets, and costumes, with lighting and camera-work, and above all with their own bodies.
by Simon Reynolds
From the start, The Residents had a parasitical relation
"Fingerprince" (also from 1976) is re-issued for the
"Duck Stab" (1977) is another fine collection of
Even more unsettling is "Eskimo", The Residents' 1979
"Not Available" was actually recorded in '74, in
"The Commercial Album" (1980) is probably the best
After "The Commercial Album", The Residents seemed to
The "American Composers Series" (The