The Residents: "Not Available" CD Review (MVD Audio) ~ BrooklynRocks: NYC Music Blog

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Residents: "Not Available" CD Review (MVD Audio)

The Residents: 'Not Available' CD Review (MVD Audio)After Ralph Records shut its doors last summer, The Residents' back catalog releases have been coming out on MVD Audio. The label issued Meet the Residents (originally released in 1974) earlier this year and followed this up with an extended version of Not Available (recorded in 1974 but not released until 1978). This new release of Not Available extends the disc's original running time from 35 minutes to 42 minutes by including pieces of songs that were edited out of the original version.

Not Available is The Residents' first concept album and the disc contains four long songs along with a shorter "Epilogue" which tells the story of a dark love triangle. The liner notes describe this release as an exercise in group therapy: "By enacting this pseudo drama within a psycho drama, the internal conflict, still not completely understood by all of the participants, became much more clear, as the player characters instinctively acted out their roles. The love triangle between Edweena, Porcupine and Catbird became obvious ("Can two be more than three?") as well as Remus's role as the distant and objective commentator ("The aching and the breaking are the making of a soul."). The purpose of the Enigmatic Foe was of course still unclear when the rehearsals began, but once the Porcupine's breakdown was known ("He thought the end was overdue, but day broke him instead..."), the role of the noble Foe, as Porcupine's stand-in for the operetta's climatic duel scene, became clear.

As the faux piece reached its peak, the trio - two holding pistols while the third hid in a bush - came to a realization that the lovely young Edweena had eloped with the independently wealthy and no longer uninvolved Uncle Remus. At this point, the tension, previously thicker than frozen mayonnaise, was shattered by the Porcupine, emerging from the shrubbery to paraphrase Shakespeare ("To show or not to be shown...").

With illusions of love shattered, the three were then able to forgive, embrace and even welcome the traitorous Remus back to the fold, once he had returned from his less than blissful honeymoon.

This release shows a striking maturity in the band's songwriting over Meet the Residents as the pieces on Not Available flow together with a dark, discordant surrealism. The music ranges from orchestral to avant-jazz no wave and there are a number of "songs" within songs which are often separated by garbled and twisted vocals. This is a work of demented genius and one can hear how these songs served as a 'jumping off' point for later-day tracks like "Walter Westinghouse" (from Fingerprince).

The added seven minutes on this extended edition adds a noticeable color to each of the songs and makes this reissue worth picking up, even if you already own a copy of Not Available.

The Residents