The time has come to speak of eyeballs and things. For those unfamiliar with America's strangest group, the special edition of The Residents Commercial Album special edition DVD, will offer no insight into the true identity behind those all-seeing orbs in top hat and tails. However, if you're looking for a vision of America that would make David Lynch's Mullholland Drive look like Viva Las Vegas, then this just might be for you.
The Residents examination of American popular culture has taken a crooked journey through the songbooks of Elvis, Gershwin, James Brown, and Hank Williams, and in the wake of the proselytising influence of the Religious Right, a charting of the darkest corners of The Bible through their Wormwood album. Although The Residents remain on the margins, whenever there's a chance to eyeball them at a UK show, you can guarantee it's a sell-out.
The arrival of The Commercial Album comes to us as part of a package celebrating 25 years since its original album release. As they saw it, The Commercial Album involved a distillation of the essential elements of the Top 40, thus reducing 40 songs to one-minute compositions, and to virtual jingles. Jingles, The Residents conclude, are the folk music of America.
If jingles are the folk music of America, then it's reasonable to add that the promo video is now part of that same folk tradition. More commonly a series of repetitive images with exchangeable and expendable 'stars', the commercial pop video (with a few honourable exceptions) is as functional a marketing tool as the jingle itself. The Residents, and their legion of collaborators, have condensed this process on this anniversary DVD, as they did with the original album.
In 1980, In a burgeoning but pre-MTV era of music promos, The Residents created four accompanying films, now enshrined at New York's Museum Of Modern Art. To coincide with the re-release, another 52 films have been created, with the help of another 42 visual artists. And as an excursion into the macbre, it's in a league all of its own.
As all of the video's spring from the same bizarre section of the brain (XXX), it's purely a matter of individual taste to pick out a representative sample. But for my money, the image of Doug Carney's portly animated figure in Amber stays sticks in these particular retinas, as does a fishy And I Was Alone by Harry Lagoussis, and the Penguin Bros spidery Secrets.