Album Review: The Residents- Not Available & A Nickle If Your Dick’s This Big pREServed Editions

Aaron ConnAlbum Review, MusicLeave a Comment

Resident group shot

Resident group shotFor the fourth time this year, Cherry Red and Ralph Records have released new entries in the continuing pREServed Edition Series by the Residents. The two releases, Not Available and A Nickle If Your Dick’s This Big, feature some of the earliest recorded work by the group. As with the previous entries in the series, these are nice additions to the group’s almost never-ending catalog.

Residents Not AvailableNot Available (recorded 1974, released 1978)
While Third Reich N Roll was the second Residents album released, Not Available was the second Residents album recorded. The reason as to why the album was released four years after it was made is disputed. From what’s been said, the group decided to keep the album shelved as a way to test the Theory of Obscurity- a theory created by their mysterious mentor N. Senada. With the Theory of Obscurity, it supposedly states that the artist cannot produce pure art when it’s not subjected to expectations or influences from the outside. With that in mind, the group decided to not release the album until they had forgotten they had recorded it. Based on the liner notes, there were tensions within the group and this album was an exercise in group therapy- making the album very personal. This is supposedly another reason why the group didn’t want the album released.

Whatever the case may be, Not Available is a solid album. Some fans consider this album to be the group’s best, which I can’t say I agree with. This is not to say that Not Available a bad. Far from it. Personally, I don’t connect with it as much as I do with some of their other albums. Prior to this reissue, I was somewhat unaware of this album having a concept. Now knowing this makes me appreciate the album more. According to the reissue’s liner notes and the group’s website, Not Available is an opera of sorts about a love triangle involving characters named Edweena, Porcupine and Catbird. The album is split into several different parts, each detailing the tale. Like many of the albums by the Residents, it’s hard to pick a favorite song as everything is all tied together. If anything, I do like the eerie opener of “Edweena,” the “Spot the Rot” bit on “Never Known Questions” and most of “Ship’s A Goin’ Down.”

As per usual with these reissues, there’s a good amount of bonus tracks. While there are a few live renditions of the songs here, the second disc features X Is For Xtra (A Conclusion)– a previously unreleased 49-minute recording. According to the booklet, this is a recording the Residents made as a demo for the follow up to Meet the Residents. While most of this recording ended up becoming Not Available, some of the musical ideas were later used on Third Reich N Roll, Fingerprince and the group’s incomplete film project Vileness Fats.  While an interesting recording, X Is For Xtra isn’t an album I see me going back to often. If anything, completists will be happy that was was added to the reissue.

Rating: 7/10

Residents Nickel coverThe W***** B*** Album/B.S. (recorded 1970-1971, released 2018-19)
Similar to Not Available being recorded before Third Reich, there are recordings that were made prior to the group’s debut Meet the Residents. The oddly titled A Nickle If Your Dick’s This Big is a two disc set featuring two rejected demo tapes the group made in the early 1970s. Both recordings featured here are former Record Store Day releases in 2018 and 2019- which were limited to only several hundred pressings. While not proper albums, these are both unique entries in the Residents’ discography.

Residents WB albumThe W***** B*** Album was recorded around 1970 by a then unnamed new musical group. It was sent anonymously to Hal Halverstadt, an executive at Warner Brothers Records that had signed Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. Halverstadt rejected the demo and mailed it back to the group. Given that the original package was sent anonymously, Halverstadt addressed the package to “Residents, 20 Sycamore St., San Francisco.” This later inspired the group to call themselves the Residents. This demo remained unreleased until 2003 when it was remixed as an archival album. The recording presented here is the original demo that the group sent to Warner Brothers. The demo is a collage of musical ideas all mixed together in four parts. Listening to the demo, it’s very unstructured. This is not to say that this is bad as some of the idea presented here are good and show potential. Still, you can hear why Halverstadt rejected this: the group needed to fine tune what they were doing here.

residents bsThe group’s second demo B.S. (which stands for Baby Sex) is an improvement over WB. For this demo, the group had more of a structure. The first half of the album sees the group giving their own take on rock tunes. Whether it be covering Frank Zappa’s “King Kong” or parodying Led Zeppelin with “Holelottadick,” it’s fun listening to these tracks- as it’s a precursor to what the group would do for Third Reich. There’s also some originals such as the folksy “Deepsea Diver Song.” For the second half, the group take from their performance at the Boarding House in San Francisco as the Delta Nudes. The songs here all seem to be part of a suite- beginning with “Somethin’ Devilish” and ending with “D Is For Doorknob” (aka “Go Fuck Yourself On a Doorknob, Ma”), the latter of which features the fabulous Miss Honeydew.

WB rating: 6/10
BS rating: 7/10

The pRESseved Editions for Not Available and W.B./B.S. are another two impressive entries in the series. While it does feel like this is lacking in content like some of the previous entries, all Residents fans should be happy that Not Available is finally, well, available! As for the demo albums, I can’t help but note that with these former Record Store Day items now being easy to attain- it does take away from them being collector’s items limited to several hundred copies. Still, I think it was a wise choice to make these available to those fans that weren’t able to get the Record Store Day releases.

The pREServed Edition series will continue come 2020- with reissues of the American Composers series, Cube-EFreak Show, and Gingerbread Man all planned for release. For the time being, fans can enjoy these two new entries- along with the enormous amount of music Cherry Red and Ralph Records have released in 2019.

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Aaron ConnAlbum Review: The Residents- Not Available & A Nickle If Your Dick’s This Big pREServed Editions