Friday, October 18, 2013

The Residents - 13th Anniversary Show: Live In Japan

I suppose the first concern with 13th Anniversary Show: Live In Japan is the same one that plagues any Replacement concert that isn’t tied to some kind of visual aid. How do you really get a feel for just how weird these tuxedo-wearing retinas are without actually seeing firsthand these tuxedo-wearing retinas in action.

 And “action” is a very subjective word, as The Residents really don’t do anything normally associated with a rock and roll concert, so if you’re looking for majestic shredding or lengthy drum solos, you won’t find it here. The strangeness comes from the visuals and the unusual presence of four anonymous men making weird noises, something that must have been a sight to see judging by the lack of audience noise that’s eerily noticeable throughout 13th Anniversary Show.

 The recording confirms this as longtime favorites like “Monkey and Bunny” and “Smelly Tongues” are especially haunting while touring guitarist Snakefinger dishes out some raw playing for “Walter Westinghouse” before unexpectedly being faded out. It is only at this point that you can audibly hear the Japanese audience applaud in approval.

13th Anniversary Show is a nice souvenir from a time when the band was in flux. The band’s previous tour-the notorious Mole shows-were a unmitigated failure and their infamous record label Ralph Records (“Buy Or Die!” was the slogan) had recently folded. Things were grim for the band and their financial stresses almost caused the band to break up.

It was their Japanese record label that pressured the band to return to the stage, this time scrapping the entire Mole project in favor of a greatest-hits set, one that proved to be successful enough to return for another run of the states while prompting a creative rebirth of their American Composers Series.

This live document captures the rebirth, but the selections do not surpass the studio counterparts and 13th Anniversary Show is best served for longtime fans searching for clues into the band’s well-being during a very quiet period in their career. As the music demonstrates, the Residents were just as strange as ever and sound like you had to be there to fully appreciate.

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