Smile Politely

The Beatles and Then Some

Everyone wants to be The Beatles. We’ve all seen our fair share of cover bands, album cover tributes/parodies, and even wardrobe similarities. Every “Best Of” list has, and will always, name check an album or two. Their influence is far reaching and several musicians, from around the globe, have all tuned in at some point. Yet at the same time, admit it, they warped Charles Manson’s mind. Oh, and they’re definitely responsible for boy bands, MTV and, sigh, Oasis.

But as we all know, The Beatles giveth and The Beatles taketh away. The seeds that The Beatles have sown flowered into the honest croonings of Daniel Johnston. And some of those also became weeds known as Coldplay. But some got way too much of that untested chemical fertilizer. When that happened, The Residents’ Meet The Residents sprouted.

The album cover says it all. It’s Meet The Beatles but with something gone terribly wrong. The first track “Boots” starts off with Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’”. But something smells fishy. The vocals sound forced. The musicians sound clumsy. When the singer proclaims the chorus and emphasizes the last words “walk over you”, it sounds more of a cautionary tale than a pop song. It seems to forewarn us of what’s to come.

“Numb Erone” starts off with two pianos, one on the lower register and one in the middle. As you take in the complementary pianos, another comes in, and adds a whimsical melody in the high register. Then it slows down and the melody becomes more forceful. “Guylum Bardot” picks up exactly where the previous track left off, with saxophones adding a sad brooding atmosphere to the melody. Then the singer comes in with another persona, beckoning his love to come back. After the short vocal snippet, the sax returns and the mood resumes.

By the time we reach “Breath and Length”, we know that all melodies are going to intertwine, alter and progress to the next track. This melody starts off with a simple piano line and xylophones, then suddenly a barking guitar comes in. Once the mood is set, a short poem by a group of women, then the effects ridden guitar solo. When the effects seem too noisy, it blends back in with the xylophones, ending with the singers breaking into laughter. “Consuelo’s Departure” is filled with electronic samples. The scat singing is laced with effects, and so are the guitar and piano. But behind it is a regular piano that keeps the whole song together, and propels it into the next.

“Smelly Tongues” has that melody, where it seems like it’s tripping over itself. The guitar again provides a twisted riff: festive yet in a demented manner. Then the singer announces, “smelly tongues, look just like they felt”. As your mind tries to process the logic in that sentence, it moves forward to the next track. “Rest Aria” is a melodic masterpiece. With horns, pianos and xylophones co-existing, not in the commonly used Indie clap-happy-artsy-fartsy sense, but rather to create an entirely new sound. It’s a 5-minute instrumental, no technical wankery, just melodies pilled greedily on top of each other.

“Skratz” has that dark sound looming over. Horns and the steady cymbal clanging to the singer as he mumbles “Scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch, dirty fingernails.” It sounds very awkward and the singing definitely contributes to it. “Spotted Pinto Bean” talks about a pinto bean leaving, with that said, the song sounds like a goofy yet intense farewell party. It features powerful piano key banging and the tearful lament of the singer grieving the pinto bean. “Infant Tango” has the groovy “wah-wah” guitar holding the song together. Along the way, the bass, horns, drum cymbals, and pianos add lines here and there, to vary the overall shape of the song.

“Seasoned Greetings” begins with a holiday-public-service-announcement mood before the instruments decide to go off into a steady piano-banging beat. Then the horns comes in and it ends with a goofy Christmas dedication to family, with a little sexual innuendo. “N-er-gee (Chrisas Blues)” continues along the Christmas theme. The singer starts with him announcing, “It’s Christmas but there ain’t nobody raising much of a fuss.” Through out the song, we hear several soundscapes. There’s a goofy slap-your-knee-and-chuckle verse, that 60’s pop song vibe, even a collage of orchestrated noise. And after listening to the lyrics you soon realize that the singer is singing in the viewpoint of Jesus, of how nobody gives a damn about him during Christmas.

It’s that type of offbeat humor and playfulness that connects the whole album together. The melodies are carefully chosen and each one leads to the next. And although each song is tied into each other, they still heavily maintain their own uniqueness. It’s avant-garde yet grounded firmly in pop melodies.

The album’s charm is definitely hit-or-miss. Considering that no one really knows who the members of this musical collective are, since everyone wears costumes, can add a mysterious veil over the music. It can also annoy a lot of people (i.e. Slipknot). So whenever someone debates you on the effect of The Beatles influence, use this album as a platform to argue, hopefully, on the pro-side.

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