Under Review: The Residents – Dollar General

The Residents thrive on two things: mystery and surprise.  Those go hand in hand, if you think about it; the mystery creates intrigue and, more often than not, the surprise is in how the band defies expectations.  Even when the most devoted fans look for a zig, The Residents throw a zag.  That’s how things have been throughout the group’s legendary history, and that’s how it continues to this day.  Early last year, The Residents released Ten Little Piggies, a “futurist compilation” that offered previews of a handful of upcoming projects.  Some of those tracks appeared on The Ughs! and in their live show, Talking Light.  The recent output of The Residents has been defined by album-contained storylines and stronger musicality than their older records.  Incorporating industrial beats and ghostly atmospheres, the latest Residents album, the all-instrumental Dollar General, forgoes one of the signature elements of The Residents’ albums (their storytelling) in favor of some spooky sonics.  Listening to Dollar General, I found myself partly recognizing some of the pieces, though not being sure as to how or why.  It turns out that these pieces were played over the PA system before and after each show on the Talking Light tour.

Dollar General makes a great sinister soundtrack to any outing, but it’s not an essential inclusion to a new Residents fan’s library.  Clattering percussion in “Restrained In The World” and the apparent salute to their wayward drummer in “Carlos Buys A Round” make Dollar General distinct from other ambient albums, but the record’s rarely more than that.  “Dollhouse,” with its metallic moans and the cinematic “Blow Row” would’ve served as fantastic bases for songs or stories, but they’re just not strong enough to stand on their own.  Fans of The Residents tend to be completists, and with the often limited releases of their multimedia recordings, it’s easy to see why.  Still, even if you’re banking on the collectible value of an album, you should make sure contents are really worth saving.

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~ by E. on August 6, 2010.

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