Review Summary: An unconventional romp through the Arctic by one of the most perplexing bands in music.
For a band that has released well over fifty albums since the ‘70s, The Residents have remained one of the most mysterious musical forces in existence, and stubbornly so. Even if you were lucky enough to catch them in concert, their identities would be concealed by either giant eyeball masks and top hats (their trademark look) or some other kind of camouflage. Their constant refusal to reveal their identities is perhaps the most unique thing about them, but that’s not to say their music is conventional in any way. It’s avant-garde at its best: experimental and innovative, especially for its time.
Listening to any given album by The Residents is an unusual experience to say the least, and 1979‘s Eskimo
is no exception. If you’ve ever wanted to embark on a wacky, unpredictable adventure through the Arctic, look no further. As bizarre as the album is, however, it does a remarkable job of imitating life through the eyes of an Eskimo. Sounds of people interacting and chanting over the frigid arctic winds gives the listener the sense that they’re actually there in the middle of the action.
Although a good majority of the album is comprised of eerie sound effects, there’s still enough going on musically to please the ears. Songs like the epic ‘The Festival of Death’ contain enjoyable flute sections and tribal drumming whereas ‘Birth’ drags the listener into the icy landscape with its captivating synths and refuses to release its grip until the end. Other tunes like ‘Arctic Hysteria’ and the borderline schizophrenic ‘The Angry Angakok’ are more difficult to digest but are also prime examples of just how damn strange The Residents are at times; both tracks containing the strangest shouting and chanting you’ll likely ever hear.
As odd as they are at times, there’s something undeniably quirky and likeable about The Residents. Thankfully, much of this charm is found on Eskimo
and it makes it simply hard to resist at times. The only real drawback to the album lies in its accessibility as not everyone will dig this kind of thing and it takes some genuine patience to sink in. If you give it time, however, the album is an intriguing listen that will only further pique your interest about The Residents. They might have dozens of outlandish albums to choose from, but Eskimo
isn’t a shabby place to start.