Review Summary: After 50 years, The Residents are still pushing the limits
After 50 years, The Residents are still pushing the limits with Metal, Meat, and Bone
. The concept behind this project is extremely ambitious and they deliver on all fronts (music, packaging, concept, marketing, etc.).
A few years ago, The Residents started planting the seeds around a long lost blues musician named Alvin Snow (aka Dyin' Dog). As part of a music revival project, The Residents and Psychofon Records, released a box set of Alvin Snow's demos. The packaging and stories included in the release are extremely captivating. The 7" record labels look like they came from various recording studios in the 70s. There are creepy polaroids showing Alvin Snow and his upbringing. There was even a documentary uploaded to YouTube telling Alvin Snow's story. The fun part is, Alvin Snow does not exist. It is an elaborate backstory to kick off the concept for Metal, Meat, and Bone
The concept? The Residents would cover Alvin Snow's unearthed demos in their own style. To top things off, they would also release six original Residents tunes "inspired" by the sound of Alvin Snow (Dyin' Dog). If that wasn't enough, the release also includes the "original" Dyin' Dog demos that were only previously released as 7" records.
The first 10 songs in the collection are the "covers" The Residents put together. These "covers" are the most accessible songs The Residents have released in a long time (or ever). There's a mix of industrial elements, bluesy guitar licks, strings and guest vocalists adding much needed melody to the manic crooning of the singing Resident (aka Randy). Songs like "DIE! DIE! DIE", which features Pixie's singer, Black Francis, "The Dog's Dream, "Tell Me", "Momma Don't Go," and "Dead Weight" are some of the best songs they have ever recorded. They're dark, moody, melodic, and carry an emotional weight that we haven't heard from the group, maybe ever. This also seems to be the first album in a while where there isn't any spoken word or narration in the mix.
The next 6 songs are original songs The Residents modeled after Alvin Snow. These songs have more of a foundation in jazz and blues with some electronic hints. They're more stripped back than the "covers" and have a creepier feel that reminds me of Duck Stab
or the weirder parts of The Commercial Album
. These songs should please fans of that era of The Residents. You can really picture the eyeball masks and tuxedos when you hear this material. "Blood Stains," "She Called Me Doggy," and "Evil Hides," which has some progressive rock influences, are the highlights of this part of the album.
Finally, we get to the "original demos." They do a great job of capturing the vibe of a long lost blues album from the 70s. It's also great how different these are from the "covers." They act as companions that make for an interesting listen when you compare them to each other. If a "cover" is slow and moody, the "original" will be more upbeat and rocking. The drums have a jazzy feel and the guitars have some great bluesy leads. The vocals give off a grisly Tom Waits vibe. The "original" versions of "Hungry Hound," "DIE! DIE! DIE," "The Dog's Dream," and "Dead Weight" capture this vibe perfectly.
Overall, this is a very involved concept and The Residents successfully stuck the landing. While I respect what The Residents have been doing over the past 50 years, their music is hit or miss for me. This is absolutely a hit. They sound energized, inspired, and are firing on all cylinders. The blues is a musical genre that fits seamlessly into their style and I'd love to hear more of it. If you like collecting vinyl, it's worth looking into the limited editions released by Cherry Red Records and Psychofon. The Residents are storytellers and musical historians, in a sense, and the physical releases expand that world. After 50 years, it is impressive that they can continue to push themselves. Here's to another 50 years!