San Francisco’s The Residents offer up an album based on the works from the legendary long-lost bluesman Alvin ‘Dyin’ Dog’ Snow.
Release Date: 10th July 2020
Label: Cherry Red Records
Formats: 2CD / 2LP / DL
Intrigued by an album review spotted in PROG magazine, we had to have a dip into the previously unchartered waters populated by The Residents. There must be more to The Residents than big eyeballs…
For starters, this seems an unusual combination but legend states that Snow briefly worked with The Residents’ early collaborator, Roland Sheehan in 1974. Sounds similar to how U2 explored their roots and buddied up with BB King during their Rattle & Hum adventure in the late Eighties.
It almost seems natural, like the band have come full circle in returning to their roots in Shreveport, Louisiana, when a recent visit caused them to reconnect with Sheehan, an old cohort who introduced the group to the music of the mythical character of Alvin Snow, aka Dyin’ Dog.
Snow himself is charged with his own fascinating ‘backstory’, one that’s worth dipping into and not always a comfortable read, but his music haunted and inspired The Residents to the extent that they felt the need to pay tribute. As has been recognised, it’s pretty much the same way as to how they’ve paid tribute to everybody from The Beatles and Elvis to Hank Williams and Prince for the past forty-odd years.
Sixteen songs come straight from the graveyard. There’s a dark and eerie feel about an album that plays the trick of toying with your comfort zones. Switching from the melodic caresses to the staccato and slightly bizarre. Songs titled Die! Die! Die!, Blood Stains, Evil Hides and Cold As A Corpse add to the musique noir feel.
With a first chorus that includes the cheeky “I’m just looking for some place to bury my bone” line encased in a fizzing electronic coating, an unnerving musical box ‘charm’ clashes with a leaden doom in Die! Die! Die! All spitting on tombstones and unremitting curses.
Yes, it could be modern gothic covering the sort of ground where Tom Waits, and Nick Cave have laid their hats. Veering towards a starkness and enough quirks in the delivery to satisfy the most demanding seeker of quirkiness, the presence of haunting lullabies and sharp blades
The high pitched vocal – some may call it a whine – on Pass For White into the sort of cinematic atmospheres that Radiohead and Thom Yorke have started to favour, while Tell Me has a disturbing urgency that adds to the “nobody ever told me” mantra. The swirl of the strings and insistent rhythm of the piece adding to the “let me die on the railroad track” lines. Cold As A Corpse sound slike it’s being sung by a doll; probably one with limbs (and an eye) missing. Pure Psycho/Hitchcock rock.
While the huge eyeballs might alternate twixt comedy and harmlessly weird, Meat Metal And Bone definitely shifts things towards the disturbing so it goes on. Sixteen tracks that circle and prowl, but despite the threat, once the heart rate settles, for us new to the band and dipping our toes, there’s a chance to admire the ingenuity.
The set includes the original Dyin’ Dog demos which are full of honking horns and harps taken at a languid and rootsy pace. Typically raw and unfettered, the gnarled vocal gives us a hint of how Dylan might sound in another decade.
The Residents’ “deconstruction of Western popular music” (thanks Wiki) continues unabated. Around in some form since the Sixties and now ticking off the ‘blues’ album, still continuing to be never less than engaging.
Listen to Bury My Bone here: