Hearing is believing when it comes to this fifth Residents album, which unites a previously released EP with seven formerly unavailable numbers. Among the tunes, many of which make as much (or little) sense at 45 speed as they do at 33: “Constantinople,” which sounds like the Seeds under water; “Hello Skinny,” which incorporates a demented version of “Hello Dolly”; “Blue Rosebuds,” where a monologue conjures up Shirley Temple on nitrous oxide; “Bach Is Dead,” which evokes a Ramones counterpart from some alternate universe; and “Laughing Song,” which is about a million times more bizarre than the offbeat, similarly titled Spike Jones classic.
As you may have guessed by now, this stuff has a lot more to do with the loony bin than with rock and roll and is as difficult to describe as it is idiosyncratic. Suffice it to say that, in addition to early Mothers of Invention and a host of electronic-music people, a list of influences might include weird parents, serious drug use, and electroshock therapy.
Be that as it may, I find much of the album to be ingenious, humorous and, in its own way, musical. True, other portions prove nearly as unlistenable as Lou Reed’s infamous Metal Machine Music. But if you lean toward the esoteric and can afford to gamble a few bucks, I do suggest that you give this a shot.
A word of warning, though: the odds are small enough that you yourself will be among the tiny percentage of the population who do not find the LP downright nauseating; the chances are even smaller that your friends will also be able to avoid throwing up or running from the room at the sound of the Residents. If you like their stuff, in other words, keep it to yourself and don’t press your luck.