PREVIEW: Music’s longest-running freak out

Back in college, I had a friend who speculated that the band The Residents were really just Van Halen in disguise.

I asked her to explain her reasoning.

“Well”, she said, “There’s four of them; we don’t know the identities of the members; and you never see them on the same bill…”

Sound logic to be sure.

The second paragraph of The Residents entry on Wikipedia is about their ability to keep their identity a secret for the 39 years of their existence (Although some “outing” videos have been appearing on youtube). Much speculation ran a-muck as to just who were The Residents. For a while, it was rumoured that they were really Devo (Both bands shared a penchant overall weirdness).

It took an appearance by Devo frontman, Mark Mothersbaugh, to show up as himself to narrate The Residents infamous Mole Show to quash that thought. Mothersbaugh counts himself as one of their biggest fans, but no one can tell if even he knows the identity of the members. And speaking of fans, we can feel safe in assuming the Lady Gaga watched and learned and took a note or two, given her public antics and interview stunts.

So, just who are the Residents?

Since coming on the scene in 1972, The Residents remain the music scene’s biggest and longest lasting enigma. They remain in costume (Tuxedos, top hats and giant eyeball helmets), during interviews – not answering questions, but letting the mouthpiece of their choice speak for them instead.

Legend has it that they show up to sound checks incognito.

The Residents remain Ralph Records (Their slogan: “Buy or die”) most enduring artists, and I’m not throwing the “artist” tag too liberally. The Resident’s have a distinct sound that defies description. They are apt and able musicians, but they choose to play ugly. The huge juxtaposition is that the lyrical theme is usually the rapturous innocence of childhood, sung by people who sound like they’ve gone mad.

But perhaps the Residents are best known for their completely wonky covers. By covers, I mean their interpretations of other artist’s songs — although their album covers are pretty wonky too. Their 1978 release The Third Reich and Roll is a collection of 60’s covers (You haven’t lived until you’ve heard their cover of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida).

Edmontonians have their first chance to see the strumming, drumming eyeball in tuxes and top hats up close and personal Monday night at the Myer Horowitz Theatre (tickets here) . Some of us have been waiting 39 for this. Until now, fans in Edmonton have been restricted to videos (The Residents are pioneers in this field; creating music videos long before the advent of MTV) and bootlegged performances that have sprung up on YouTube.  The term “avant garde” has been applied to this band ad nauseum.

My college friend wrote to The Residents and confronted them with her theory. They wrote back scoffing her theory, mocked her and then excused themselves so the could make a fort under the kitchen table. The note was scrawled in orange crayon.

Who are these guys?…..