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Residents - WB:RMX

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Artist: Residents

Album: WB:RMX

Label: Cryptic Corporation/Ralph

Review date: Jul. 14, 2004

When dealing with The Residents, suspension of either disbelief or belief is generally wise. In other words, don't trust anything they say. Luckily, their music can't lie. The story, whether or not you want to believe it, is that 30 years ago, The Residents had these tapes rejected by Warner Bros. Now, perhaps in revenge, the eyeballed wonders have dug out the tapes and given them the once or twice-over, resulting in these remixes.

The basic underlying skeletons of these tunes do have the ring of older Residents, circa Third Reich & Roll and other favorites. The remixing has given them the sheen of latter-day Residents, but they haven't been able to wipe off all the grime. Having been listening to this crew for 20 years or so, I have to come clean and admit that I strongly prefer the earlier works, before they discovered the joys of digital workstations and shiny mechanical rhythms. Give me Duck Stab or Vileness Fats over Wormwood, for example. While the group's wacky vision has remained consistently fascinating, the musical content seems to have grown somehow less spontaneous, less for-the-hell-of-it.

WB:RMX, then, lies somewhere in between, like a dead pigeon preserved under gleaming glass and chrome. The crazed beats and carnivalesque ditties here are too often thrown under the wheels of monotonous digital drums, but the original charm is frequently still on display.

For example, when "A Merican Fag" suddenly bursts into heavy kick-drum sameness, I wonder if it's a purposeful play on Eurodisco, but I dunno. At least it doesn't last long. That contrasts oddly with the lumbering, and far more interesting "Sweet Meat" with its cumbersome rhythm, violin melody, and weird sonic embellishments.

"Ohm is Where the Art Is" favors us with some of The Residents' trademarked bizarro vocals, chanted atop shimmering piano. When the drums kick in they still seem overly programmed, but the awkwardness of the vocals and piano keep it off-kilter and intriguing. The album sometimes even rocks out, in a twisted way, as during "Baby Skeletons & Dogs" with its insistent beat and dense guitar.

The most appealing songs are those that play on unexpected combinations, like the rock guitar atop puzzling synths and samples presented as "Oh Mommy Oh Daddy." Similarly, "Christmas Morning Foto" sounds much like a Caribbean celebration filled with drunken geese. Which is a good thing, though I'm not sure about the Christmas connection.

"Pie in the Sky," on the other hand, throws down some street beats with coruscating noises ebbing and flowing over it until the song segues smoothly into the finale, "Art, the White Elephant," with jungle calls, party shouts, and sharp guitar stabs. As it ends, filled with weird sound effects and collaged instruments, it feels like the end of a trip through two different times, fun yet touched by a slight melancholy.

By Mason Jones

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