The Residents are very much one of my favourite bands. I generally like their music, though I do find one or two of their early albums a hard listen, but it's their style, story-telling and the way they constantly experiment with new forms of media and communication that keeps me coming back to them.
I first discovered The Residents through a friend of mine, Phil Wlodarczyk, who has many of the same tastes of myself - Philip K. Dick, weird-shit, bizarre humour, tech-stuff, classic and bad SF, and of course, the Residents.
The four members of the group initially had a variety of disguises, but eventually settled on giant eyeball heads. This stayed constant until someone at a concert pulled the eye off one of the group - since then that member has worn a skull.
I saw them in concert in the eighties, and they put on a great show. Black clad stagehands would move white-painted inflatable giraffes into bizarre configurations as they sang. The lighting was well-used, the stage-presence awesome.
Amongst my favourite albums are - The Mark of the Mole the story of two very different cultures merging due to a natural disaster; Gingerbread Man where the album examines in song the lives of the people the Gingerbread Man meets, including a Dying Oilman, an Aging Transexual, and a Butcher; God in Three Persons, an epic tone poem about identical twins with strange abilities, and the manager who becomes obsessed with them; Freak Show telling the stories of the people living the life; and Wormwood which takes strange stories from the bible as the source for its songs.
The Residents Official Home Page has more on them and has downloads of some of their rarer singles and work, and iTunes now has many of their albums available for download.
The problem I have about writing about The Residents is that there is so much I can say, I don't know what to say. Maybe it's easier if I just leave you with some impressions...
Bizarre, insightful, clever, artistic, strange, experimental, brilliant, story-tellers, funny, talented, inspirational.
Now in this case I'm mainly talking about when it happens at open room parties, areas with other people around, and the like. I have no problem with closed parties where the point is to hook up - people are going there knowing what to expect.
But there's an appropriate time and place, and when we're talking public or open events, as much as I enjoy a good smooch, that's not it.
Room parties are a natural place for people to hook up, it's going to happen from time to time. Two folks meet and find an instant rapport, people who have always been interested in one another finally choose to act on it, horny buggers think 'What the Hell.' No problem, good one guys, go for it. But once you've reached the stage where your physical intimacy means you are no longer aware or care about the people around you, it's time to go somewhere else.
In a room party where the point is for people to get together, socialise, and enjoy one another's company, a pair of people making out in the corner or on the bed often spoils the mood by making many of the other attendees uncomfortable. Even people just cuddling can have that effect - once they get to the point where they don't care about the rest of the world, there is a strong sense for the rest of us that what is being seen is something intensely private. We no longer feel welcome or free to be in that space. I'm pretty open-minded, but in that sort of environment it can make me uncomfortable, if only because I don't know where to look.
And before anyone dares suggest that people who are uncomfortable with such shows of intimacy are hung-up, or uptight, let me say that indulging yourself in this behaviour around other people at what is meant to be an open event or party is, quite simply, rude, inconsiderate and selfish. You're indulging yourself and the people around you are being made to feel like they are no longer welcome. Even if you don't care, they do, and you have just ruined the relaxed atmosphere for many of the folks there.
Plus, simply put, you're not that attractive and most of us don't want to see you making out.
A few years back a friend and I found ourselves in the strange situation of having a number of attractive women sitting around, and occasionally on, us while they made out with each other. Now it wasn't too bad to be around in some ways, but once it got serious enough, we began to get uncomfortable. We were being paid occasional attention in that now and again one would sit on our knees or lounge across us and talk with us, before returning to the female snog-fest.
Maybe they expected us to just enjoy the show, maybe they thought we'd join in - what they were missing was that their actions were at best, non-inclusive, and at worst mocking. We were stuck feeling like we were intruding on their privacy.
We weren't comfortable, we weren't included, and we didn't feel we could easily leave. And when we chose to talk with each other about a subject that was totally unrelated and took us back to a zone of comfort, we got teased about it. What I remember isn't several attractive women making out, what I remember is the mutual discomfort my friend and I felt.
If offered a chance to watch, join in or leave, I would have been given some power over my situation. And if that had happened, I probably would have happily watched or possibly joined in, or if my mood was wrong, I would have left. I have no problem with the ladies enjoying themselves, and would be quite happy to be in the situation again, so long as I was given the freedom to act as I felt comfortable with. As it was, when my friend and I spoke about it later we both commented on not knowing how to react, and so not feeling like we could do anything, including leaving.
That said, there are times and places where a little of this behaviour is quite fine in a party or public atmosphere. When several members of the party are involved in things like drinking from people's navels, eating lollies off one another, getting into kissing contests, jelly wrestling... these things will still make some people uncomfortable, but so long as it's in the realm of all are welcome to play and/or watch, and it's kept at a low enough level where it's still only a bit of slightly naughty fun, I have no problem with it.
Someone being stroked or pampered by multiple people until they melt, no problem - it can be amazingly funny to other party-goers to watch someone melt and go floppy. Disappearing into a quiet corner at a Masquerade or nightclub - so long as it doesn't get too full-on, go for it.
It's once it gets serious there's an issue. Because once two or more people start to exclude the room other people no longer feel welcome or free to be there.
And that is neither fair nor right.