Review Summary: Come and take a ride that will make you shiver, shake, and squirm. Something that is an incredible adventure and experience that has to be heard to be believed.
I want to start off by saying that I first discovered album by freak accident. I just typed in the residents in YouTube and "Gingerbread Man" music video came up and I immediately fell in love with it. When I first discovered Pink Floyd, I thought this is weird I love it. What could be weirder?? Than I discovered Frank Zappa, than I discovered Captain Beefheart. And lemme tell you... This is so much weirder than the Cap himself. I would like to add that this album in its entirety is an experience. It is something that is of the same caliber of "Sgt.Peppers Lonely Hearts Club" album. It is a magnificent journey of space and time that transcends multiple ideas and people. It ultimately puts you in the mindset of other weird and interesting walks of people. If you would like a small taste just check out "Gingerbread Man" on YouTube. The video is like ten minutes long and a perfect introduction to "The Residents". Anyway, without further adieu, let the review begin.
"Gingerbread Man" is an insanely weird concept album. Each track is divided into two sections. The first part is the actual song, while the second part is the thought process of the character who just began singing. Each part that is sung does not really last the long, the spoken parts are always longer however. But the thing is that each song paints a fantastic image in your head. Its like you find yourself in a room and someone is just talking to you, calmly. But than it escalates and they are telling you their whole life story. But you actually become enveloped in it. Its an experience in which words do not give any justice to. The best advice I can give you is that if you're into really bizarre music, this is the perfect album for you. It starts off with the track, "The Weaver" which kicks off the intro that starts off every song. Its that ginger bread song that we all learned as kids. But it sung by weird freaky high pitched vocals that set the bar for how good the album really is. Than you have powerful, deep, meaningful songs such the "Sold-Out Artist". Which is a fantastic song basically about the popular bands getting more popular and the unpopular ones just fading into obscurity. He continues on to state that he is one of the popular ones and they should feel gracious they the people have him. The way the man says "Everyone feeds that fat boy" really stands out to me. Possibly an allegory, but with this band its so hard to judge. Its also important to say that the spoken parts of the songs are jumbled messes. And I believe this is done on purpose to disorientate the listener. The background music just makes everything hard to focus but when you do it really hits you. But at the same time, it blends together perfectly. The singing is great though, all the song parts could have gone alone as a standalone, but it is complimented perfectly by the spoken parts. To put it simply, each section could have been a standalone section, but the disconnect actually turns everything into a connection if that somehow makes sense. Each of the tracks hold significant substance that really houses a great deal of flavor. It is all so bizarre, interesting, and most of all fresh. This album also contains a few songs that do not really go anywhere such as "The Dying Oilman" which is about a dying man who is at the end of his life and just wants a smoke, but he complains about how stupid the people are but continues onward as if it wasn't even his last day. You also have the track "The Old Woman" which is about an old woman anxious and stressing about all of her plants because she feels once she dies there will be nobody to take care of them. So as you can see its a hot mess of flavorful tracks that I can honestly say has no match whatsoever. Its just so strange, so dense, yet so full of magic and wonderment. Its fresh but familiar when you really get into it.
Each song is initially a story, but continues onward, like a bonus if you will. It all transcends into a higher more pure form of a story. Some actually hold meaning, some go absolutely nowhere, while some just make you think. The best example is the "Aging Musician" which in my opinion has the most significance story wise. Its about a musician who has aged and seen the face of music change. He hints that he is no longer in the public's popular eye. However he states that maybe he can return if he puts a bullet in his brain just like Kurt Cobain did. Despite this he is still afraid of doing so, he feels the only way to become a star again is suicide and that infuriates him. But he battles with the idea in a whole. He also goes onward to hate on MTV saying its ruined music. The song is tragically beautiful.
This really is one of those albums that the less I say the better, but just know I went into this one blind. I was pleasantly surprised by it all. Its quirky and strange, but it all goes along together well. It flows like that of a river, smooth and at a brisk pace. But when you take a closer look you see what the river really holds. Some things are better off left unsaid. This album is an experience and should not really listen to the tracks individually. They can be, but it takes away all the fun from it. As a whole this album is a perfect example of where music can take you. Far past the edge of the tranquility and the normal agenda. It can make us quiver, give us chills, and make us question what it is to be alive. This album came out in 1994 and it already was way ahead of its time. Do yourself a favor and try a new experience, as amazing and far fetched as this one.