Louisiana swamp rats who relocated to San Francisco in 1966 and created a stir by never revealing their identities and making head size eyeballs famous, The Residents specialised in proto-synth programming that pre-dated Devo and just about every cutting edge artist, with the possible exception of Can, the German experimental legends.
In 1971 The Residents mailed a home-made tape to Harve Halverstadt, who had previously signed Captain Beefheart, at Warner Brothers. The tape – optimistically named The Warner Bros Album – proved to be too weird for Halverstadt and was locked in the vaults and forgotten about.
Duck Stab/Buster and Glen (1978), a compilation of two EP’s, followed Not Available (1974) and Third Reich’n’Roll (1976) – the latter a collection of old pop oldies covers released in a controversial Hitler sleeve.
Duck Stab… had it all: chanting, atonal honking, high-pitched vocals, cartoon voices, nonsense poetry, comedy accents and sound effects. The Residents fused the weirdest sounds into an even weirder whole.
Eskimo (1979) – ostensibly a musical documentary on the Eskimo – was an album of icy atmospheres, poetic electronics, and imaginary landscapes, concocted around a loose narrative told in the liner notes. There was also a subtheme of indigenous populations overrun by western commercialism (is that native chant actually “Coca-Cola is Life”?).
In January 2010 The Residents began a series of tours titled ‘Talking Light’, touring North America and Europe. During the tours, which lasted until April 2011, the band appeared as a trio, with the explanation that the fourth member (“Carlos”) had grown tired of the music business and gone home to Mexico to care for his mother.
The members of The Residents always protected their identities by appearing in public in disguise – eyeball helmets, top hats and tuxedos – but in 2010 they finally revealed themselves as Randy, Chuck and Bob, explaining that the fourth member who had left the band was named Carlos.