Album Review: The Residents- Meet the Residents & The Third Reich N Roll pREServed Editions

Aaron ConnAlbum Review, MusicLeave a Comment


ResidentsWith their 50th anniversary approaching, The Residents have reissued their first two albums. Meet the Residents and The Third Reich N Roll, were last reissued in 2011. This time around, these classics are being given two-disc deluxe editions – or rather pREServed Editions. Along with the original albums being newly remastered, these pREServed Editions are loaded with bonus tracks – some of which have never been on sale to the public. As the first entries in a new series of Residents reissues, these new releases serve, hopefully, as a promising start.

Meet the Residents coverMeet the Residents (1974)
While the Residents formed around 1969, they didn’t release a full-length album until 1974. Right from the start, the Residents were performance artists. They decided to keep their identities a secret, which added more to their mystique. Released in 1974, Meet the Residents wasn’t a big selling record that year. With an album cover that was a parody, and a defacing, of Meet the Beatles, no one knew what to think of these guys. Was this a joke? After all, the album was released on April Fool’s Day of 1974. Had the Beatles reunited under a different name? It was all a mystery. In its first year, Meet The Residents sold only 40 copies. Decades after its release, it’s now treasured as one of the group’s best albums.

With its reverberating production and avant garde approach, Meet the Residents is a wild debut album. The songs here cover a wide variety of musical genres – all interpreted in an unconventional manner. For starters, the group’s interpretation of “These Boots Were Made For Walkin’” is completely different from the Nancy Sinatra original. Whereas Sinatra’s version was upbeat and bouncy, the Residents’ rendition is polarizing in comparison. Other highlights include the operatic “Spotted Pinto Bean,” the eerie “Rest Aria” and the soul infused “Infant Tango.”

The bonus content on Meet the Residents ranges from EPs to studio outtakes. The original 1972 Santa Dog EP is included in this set, featuring all four tracks from it. With the exception of the 1988 CD reissue, previous issues of this album would not include the Santa Dog tracks – it’s good to have them on here and it makes sense, given they were recorded shortly before the debut album.

Die-hard fans will probably be more interested in the studio outtakes presented here. According to the CD booklet, these are alternate versions of the songs that were backed up on cassette tapes. The alternate versions are interesting to listen to, with some of the songs being extended or featuring different vocals. Amongst the outtakes, there are some songs that never made the final album such as “Tuesday,” “Inka,” and “Poisoned Popcorn.” Taking up most of the outtakes is the eerie multi-part collage of “1-10 (With a Touch of 11).” The collage is a weird but intriguing mish mash of the group experimenting with instruments, sound effects and even sampling. The second disc also includes the 1977 stereo mix of the album. While I find myself preferring the mono mix, it’s nice that they included  it here.

Album rating: 7/10

The Third Reich N Roll (1976)The Third Reich N Roll cover
The Third Reich N Roll is a very unique sophomore effort from the Residents. As a parody/satire of music from the 1960s, the album was an eccentric collection of cover tunes. However, this isn’t your typical covers album: with the Residents, they completely re-interpret these songs in their own bizarre way- with many of the songs being difficult to recognize. The group rips and dissects these songs, rearranging parts and combining them with other tunes. The album artwork is also wacky, as it depicts Dick Clark in a German military uniform- surrounded by cartoons of Adolf Hitler dancing.

Like Meet the Residents, there’s a lot of bonus content. With Third Reich, the material offered here is a little more varied. There are several songs from single releases. This is includes their covers of “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones and “Flying” by the Beatles. The latter served as the b-side to a single entitled The Residents Play the Beatles and the Beatles Play the Residents. The a-side to that release is a song called “Beyond the Valley of a Day in the Life,” which is a fun collage of sampled Beatles songs mixed together. Unlike Meet the Residents, there isn’t a wide variety of studio outtakes – with a large portion of what you’re getting being the multi-part “German Slide Music.”

Live renditions of music from Third Reich are also featured, all from different eras in the group’s career. The standout live track here is the “Oh Mummy, Oh Daddy” performance- the group’s historic first show as the Residents.  In 1976, a record store in Berkeley called Rather Ripped Records was celebrating their fifth anniversary, and it was at this event where the Residents were one of the several acts that played. Given the group didn’t want to reveal their identities; they performed dressed up as mummies.  Over the years, the performance has been bootlegged by fans. It’s now here on this expanded edition of Third Reich and it’s a remarkable performance as it captures the group’s energy during that period in time.

Album rating: 7/10

The remastering
In terms of the engineering and the sound, some listeners might find this new remaster to be too loud. Looking at the 2011 and 2018 remasters in Audacity, you’ll see that the 2018 file has a much bigger sound wave. In Audacity, it has the option to have clipping in audio files marked by a red line. I have this option selected in the pictures that you see below and as you can see, there is no clipping to be seen. If it’s too loud, that just might be because of the way it was recorded.  Having listened to these albums several times, I think they sound fine. For Meet the Residents, the recording is very rough given it’s their first album. With Third Reich, it’s pretty much the same but not as harsh. Some listeners might want to hang onto their older copies just to be safe.

N Er Gee compare

Side-by-side comparison of the soundwaves for “N-Er-Gee (Crisis Blues)” from Meet the Residents

Third Reich comparison

Side-by-side comparison of the soundwaves for “Swastikas on Parade” from The Third Reich N Roll

In conclusion, these two reissues from the Residents are really impressive. Looking at both albums and their bonus content, you’re really getting your money’s worth on these. While the remastering may not be to everyone’s liking, the bonus content alone makes these reissues worth purchasing. With these being the first two in a new series of reissues, I’m really looking forward to seeing what the Residents and Cherry Red will come up with next.

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Aaron ConnAlbum Review: The Residents- Meet the Residents & The Third Reich N Roll pREServed Editions