The Residents: A cult band minus a genre

The Residents
  • The Residents

And now for some good old deconstruction of American pop music: the Residents are taking a lap around the country in celebration of their 40th anniversary as a creative unit. Too strange for some, the Residents are a musical rarity in that they are a cult band minus a genre. They align with no particular scene whatsoever. And one is hard pressed to describe their music, other than to cloak it in terms like “bad acid trip” or, at the very least, a Blue Man vibe with sideshow tendencies. First off, there’s the ambiguity of the group. They wear plastic eyeball helmets or ghoulish masks so that their faces are always hidden from view. The music is synth-based, the vocals howling and nightmarish, and the guitar tones often sound like something recorded from deep down inside the innermost reaches of a wasp’s nest. Did I mention funny? Comedy is the engine of this art collective.

The Residents originated in Louisiana but landed up in San Francisco, which should come as no surprise to anyone. Since 1974, they have churned out one or two albums per year — 47 of them by now (not counting compilations), including last year’s Coochie Brake. Anonymity has always been a mandate of the group, which, as nearly as I can tell, may consist of only two core members: Hardy Fox and Homer Flynn, along with Nolan Cook and a frequent collaborator named Philip Lithman, a guitarist who goes by the name of Snakefinger. The Residents’ first record set the tone for the rock mockery to come: it was Meet the Residents, but with goofy doodling on the original portraits of the Fab Four on Meet the Beatles. The Residents appear to be going strong in their strangeness, but exactly where does one go with this sort of thing? It makes me itchy and anxious just thinking about the possibilities.

The Residents: Belly Up, Tuesday, February 26, 8 p.m. 858-481-8140. $25 advance/$27 doors

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