The Daily Heller: All Eyes on The Residents’ Design

Posted inThe Daily Heller

This might be the year of the interactive music-in-a-book-music-book. OK—maybe it is just another year in the long history of this particular genre. But in 2021 we have been blessed with Get Back (the companion to the umpteen-hour Beatles documentary), Paul McCartney’s Lyrics, They Might be Giants’ Book, and now The Residents: A Sight for Sore Eyes, Vol. 1 (Melodic Virtue), a fully authorized visual history with rare and unseen photos, artwork and other rare ephemera. Designer, art director and publisher Aaron Tanner was given unprecedented access to The Cryptic Corporation‘s archives to create a limited-edition coffee table volume covering everything from the Residents‘ beginnings in San Mateo, CA, to The Mole Show.

The book is a pantheon of performance royalty. It features an introduction by Les Claypool (Primus) and quotes from Danny Elfman, Paul Reubens, John Linnell (They Might Be Giants), “Weird Al” Yankovic, Andy Partridge (XTC), Penn Jillette, Eric Drew Feldman (Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band), Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers), Aaron Freeman (Ween), James McNew (Yo La Tengo), Zach Hill (Death Grips), Eric André, David J (Bauhaus), Cedric Bixler-Zavala (The Mars Volta), Josh Freese (The Vandals), Rob Crow (Pinback), Dan Deacon, Don Preston (The Mothers of Invention), Alexander Hacke (Einstürzende Neubauten), JG Thirlwell, Blaine L. Reininger (Tuxedomoon), Sam Coomes (Quasi), David Janssen and Brian Poole (Renaldo and the Loaf), and many more.

Soon, including recordings in books will be common—perhaps as a transition from the printed page to total spoken word. This book contains a black vinyl 7″ of the unreleased Not Available–era track “Nobody’s Nos.” A deluxe edition is also available that is limited to 500 copies, signed by the band and author, featuring a picture disc of “Nobody’s Nos” along with a 24-page softcover book, Duck Stab/Buster & Glen Notebook, which contains never-before-seen notes and in-progress lyrics for the legendary album.

Even for those who have not been followers of the The Residents, the book is a keeper in a popular genre of music lit; after all, they have been leaders in the world of experimental music for 50 years. In addition to their work in the areas of trance, world fusion, electronica, punk, industrial and lounge music, the group is credited with being among the originators of performance art and music video, with their contributions to the latter included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. But what is the true origin and continuing story of The Residents?

As Matt Groening has written (and who am I to not take Matt at his word):

There is no true story of The Residents. You should know that right off. The secrets of The Residents will never be revealed by anyone but The Residents themselves, and so far they aren’t saying much. This report offers some insight into The Residents and their work, but their favorite breakfast cereals will remain a mystery. Part of what The Residents are about is their camouflage, and any understanding of them must take into account both their organized sounds and their organized silence. The best this report can do is note the various statements and point out the gaps. Our knowledge is still incomplete. Anything is possible.

Credits: Aaron Tanner (art direction, design); Jackson Tanner (illustration, photography); Homer Flynn (most of the original design and photography); Hardy Fox (some of the original photography and illustration); Graeme Whifler (some photography featured in the book through 1980)