In their five-decade career, the Residents have managed to release nearly 50+ albums- touring for nearly every one of them. From their bizarre nature to their mysterious identities, the Residents have always been cult favorites amongst music lovers. Their latest album, Metal, Meat and Bone, sees the group dealing with yet another conceptual piece. While it isn’t at the level of their classic albums, Metal, Meat and Bone is still a fun and inspired effort from the group.
Like almost every Residents album before it, Metal, Meat and Bone revolves around a concept and/or theme. For this album, it’s presented as the Residents paying tribute to (more than likely fictional) blues musician Alvin Snow, aka the Dyin’ Dog. According to the press release and liner notes, the Residents were told of Snow in 2013 during the making of their 2015 documentary Theory of Obscurity. Former bandmate Roland Sheehan was interviewed for the documentary, which got him back in contact with the group. Sheehan briefly worked with Alvin Snow during the 1970s in Shreveport, LA- which is where the Residents originate from. Back in the day, Sheehan helped Snow record demos with Stan Lewis- owner of Jewel Records. Sheehan had forgotten about the demos until his meeting with the Residents. After listening to the demos, the Residents were in awe of Snow’s music and his story. Alvin Snow was an albino born musician born around 1939. Raised in an orphanage, Snow would soon become interested in music after hearing Howlin’ Wolf on a jukebox. During the 1970s, Snow would begin writing music. Journeying from Mississippi to Louisiana, Snow would meet a 60-something-year-old widow named Lillian Underwood at the Temple Baptist Church. Soon after recording the demos with Sheehan, Snow was set to make his premier on his 37th birthday on January 13, 1976. Sadly three days before the gig, both Miss Lillian and Snow’s hero Howlin’ Wolf died. Devastated by these losses, Snow disappeared and was never seen again.
The main album is presented in two parts: The Residents Play Dyin’ Dog and The Songs Inspired by Dyin’ Dog. Having listened to the album the first time around without knowing this, it doesn’t affect the listening experience. However, it is worth noting that the Dyin’ Dog tunes do sound like they’re following a story- possibly autobiographical on Dyin Dog’s part. Musically, the songs on Metal, Meat and Bone would fall along the lines of electronic and industrial music- with some alternative rock and old school Residents thrown in. The opening track, “Bury My Bone,” is a solid opener- as it combines elements of electronica and rock music. The electronica sounds continue on other songs- with highlights including the soundscape filled “The Dog’s Dream” and the alien sounding “Dead Weight.” A few of the electronica songs dabble a bit in hip hop territory such as “Momma Don’t Go” and “Cut to the Quick.” The former sounds like a modern-day radio tune (sans the AutoTune) while the latter uses some sampling in the intro.
While an enjoyable album, Meat, Metal and Bone isn’t without its weaknesses. The middle part of the album, while not bad at all, tends to get repetitive. The songs are all well written and produced but it’s just nothing too exciting. Still, a majority of this album is enjoyable. As mentioned before, there’s some old-school sounding Residents tunes on here. “Die! Die! Die!” has Residents classic written all over it: from its visceral Tom Waits-like vocal delivery to its eerie vibe, it’s a standout from the album. Speaking of eerie vibes, this album is filled with them. The much coveted 1970s output from the group always had a sinister sound to it and this album is no different. The chilling “Hungry Hound” tells the story of the discovery of a stabbed dog in a graveyard. “She’s gone and God, I miss her/Lying in the ground” laments the singer. “I’ll never find another bitch to hump my hungry hound.” The album also ends on a strong note with the mini-five-minute epic “Midnight Man.” The song starts out slow but quickly evolves into a unique mix of electronica, alternative and even psychedelic rock. From the production to the vocal delivery, it’s a great way to close out the album.
As a whole, Metal, Meat and Bone is a solid studio effort from the Residents. When it comes the group’s work after the 1970s and/or The Commercial Album, the other 40-something albums in their discography are hit or miss for most fans. Speaking as someone who hasn’t heard every Residents album out there, I found myself surprised by this album. The concept/theme is strong and while not flawless, this is a good later-day effort from a veteran artist. It’s also worth mentioning that the album comes with a second disc- which are the “original” Dyin’ Dog demos. The inclusion of the second disc goes to show the group’s commitment to the concept. If you’re a long-time fan of the group’s earlier work and haven’t checked out their later work in a while, I say this is worth a listen.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Residents have postponed Dog Stab tour- which would’ve seen the group performing songs from the new album and classics from the band’s 1978 effort Duck Stab/Buster And Glen album. The group have rescheduled the tour for 2021 so be on the lookout for tour dates.
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.