Album Review: The Residents- Gingerbread Man pREServed Edition

Aaron ConnAlbum Review, MusicLeave a Comment

Residents group shot

Residents group shotNow three years into the pREServed Edition series, Cherry Red Records and MVD have released the next entry. The album in question, Gingerbread Man, is another solid installment in the series. Originally released in 1994, Gingerbread Man is usually considered a standout in the group’s discography. As with the other entries in the series, Gingerbread Man‘s reissue is jampacked with bonus tracks and all kinds of extras.

The album (w/ some history)
Residents Gingerbread ManWith the success of the Cube-E shows and Freak Show, the Residents were already concocting their next project. If the story in this reissue’s liner notes is to be believed, the inspiration for Gingerbread Man came from the childhood memories of one of the Residents. His grandmother would bake him gingerbread men during the holidays and told him the classic folktale, which was first published in a 1875 issue of St. Nicholas. Being intrigued by the dark origins of the original story, the Residents had found the basis of their next album.

Judging by the title alone, most would assume that Gingerbread Man is an album adaptation of the folktale. It isn’t: this is something far more disturbing. With the theme of titular character playing at the start of each track, the album is more so about the Gingerbread Man’s journey as he follows nine different characters- all of whom are tortured, depressed, suicidal and moody. Musically, almost all of the songs sound the same- similar to the way God in Three Persons told its story via “talking blues” style. Unlike God in Three Persons, the songs on Gingerbread Man are separate stories instead of just one, a la Freak Show. Similar to Eskimo, there are stories to go with each character that can be found in the CD booklet that add a little more depth.

Gingerbread CD ROM

Shot from the interactive CD Rom feature included on original copies of Gingerbread Man. In this shot, we see the nine different characters featured on the album.

The stories featured on Gingerbread Man come from people that have “unique views of life.” Without giving too much away, the stories told here are quite frightening to hear. While completely out there and unlikely to happen in real life, these can be unsettling for some listeners. Musically, the group sound like they are picking up where they left off on Freak Show in terms of the MIDI technology. While it might’ve aged better with Freak Show, it still works on Gingerbread Man. Given the dark and depressing feel of this album, you could see this as the group’s take on grunge rock: the subject matters tackled in these songs aren’t too far off from what one would’ve on a Nirvana or Soundgarden album back in the day. Speaking of the former, Kurt Cobain is named dropped during one song “The Tortured Artist”- which features Todd Rundgren (!) on vocals.

Bonus tracks/discs

Residents Hunters

The 1995 soundtrack the Residents created for the Discovery Channel show of the same name.

Gingerbread Man‘s reissue comes with two discs worth of bonus track, along with live material on the first disc. The live renditions of the album’s material is fun to hear, given how the group sometimes reinterpret their songs. The other bonus tracks here vary from soundscapes to instrumentals. For Disc 2, there’s 70 minutes worth of stuff left on the cutting room floor so to speak. There’s really nothing worth noting except the last track, which is an all instrumental version of Gingerbread Man album- which clocks in at a solid 36 minutes.

Disc 3, however, is another album from the group: 1995’s Hunters soundtrack. During the time the group were making Gingerbread Man, they were approached by the Discovery Channel to provide the music for a new 10-episode docu-series entitled Hunters. The series aired from late 1994 to early 1995, with the soundtrack being released by Milan Records later in the year. Given the album wasn’t released on the group’s own label, it didn’t receive any promotion aside from the TV show.

With its limited promotion, Hunters is a forgotten part of the group’s discography. Forgotten or not, Hunters is a fairly boring album to listen to. This isn’t to say the music is bad but once you realize this was meant for a docu-series, it makes sense: it sounds like it was made to be used as background music. However, some diehards will probably be happy with the addition of four bonus tracks- all from the group’s 1993 EP Prelude to The Teds. One of the four songs, “Teddy,” is worth noting as it would later become part of the group’s live shows as recent as 2013. The song, according to singer Randy Rose during live performance, is about “a demented midget involved in a co-dependent relationship with a giant, and they’re into rough sex.”  What’s not to love?

Overall thoughts
While not without its flaws, this reissue of Gingerbread Man is a well assembled entry in the ongoing pREServed Edition Series. However of the singular albums that have got the preREServed treatment, this might be my least favorite thus far. I did enjoy the original album, several of the bonus live tracks and (of course) “Teddy.” As for the rest of reissue and Hunters, I don’t see me coming back to it. Nevertheless, I’m sure diehard fans will be happy with this reissue’s breadth and length (pun intended). Similar to Freak Show, the album is lacking the interactive content. When released back in the day, Gingerbread Man had an interactive CD-Rom experience. However similar to Freak Show, people can easily look up the videos from the software on YouTube.

The preREServed Editions series will continue with the release of Wormwood at some point this year.

 

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Aaron ConnAlbum Review: The Residents- Gingerbread Man pREServed Edition