1969- : It’s Absurd to Be Offended By The Residents

If you ask me, a great part of The Residents’ appeal stems from their absurdity; the way they channel surrealism and playfulness in ways that make you reflect on existential ennui. They lead you to scary territory, making you realize everything is really futile and it’s all just a big race to see who dies first. At least that’s what happens when I start to bob my head to the grooves of Commercial Album and Third Reich N’ Roll. Sure I love The Residents, and so does Steven Stapleton, the MOMA, and most humans who can spot sarcasm a mile away, but I have grown increasingly disappointed with each of their releases, especially the more narrative albums in their catalogue.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I saw them earlier this year. Anticipation was high in general since the show was sold out and scalpers were rampant with overpriced tickets. And then the lights went out, the crowd roared, the three masked men appeared and things weren’t surreal as much as they were didactic, pedestrian, and highly condescending; all done in the cheapest, least involved way. Whenever they addressed the audience, they talked to us as if they were playing for little children. In comparison, a live Sesame Street act would have been more avant-garde than presenting lame projections and laptops doing playback while a guitarist did his best Steve Vai imitation. Ugh. Just ugh.

Whenever I listen to The Residents, I end up wondering if they intended to make me think about something deeper or if they thought all of this was just something cool to do; perhaps they are mocking us for thinking they wanted to achieve something beyond simple sound-making. Yet I think we live in a time completely suited for The Residents. When they started in the 70s the sociopolitical environment was absurd, bordering on the scary. In my appreciation, they were ridiculous and unreasonable, “out of tune” like the root of the word “absurd” in Latin, not because they were stupid or dissonant (well, sometimes they were); they understood what Antonin Artaud once said about theater being a bloody and inhuman spectacle to exorcise the audience’s latent criminal behavior. At least that’s what they used to be; now they’re as safe as Cirque Du Soleil, without the bigger-than-Jesus budget. The times we live in can’t be any more absurd. I mean, just look around! I’d hope for The Residents to make some great art based on these idiot times, because someone should say something.

Perhaps the joke is on me and their ultimate work is doing things halfway so people can talk and write incessantly about them and that’s all they really want. I can’t blame them for that. Anyway, this song from their glorious Duck Stab album makes me feel things inside and in places I might tell you later, if you’re interested.


There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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