photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
ANONYMITY is an attention grabbing device that has been used in ROCK N ROLL for decade now to the point that it is beyond a cliche. ARTISTS ranging from KISS, DAFT PUNK and GWAR to DEVO, MF DOOM and SLIPKNOT have utilized this technique for varying AESTHETIC, POLITICAL and PERSONAL purposes over the years. arguably THE RESIDENTS have pioneered the choice of OBFUSCATION into an ART form. for them this SELF-DETERMINED ARTIFICE that separates their true IDENTITY from the world is ironically about maintaining a relationship with their audience and is the central premise of the recent THEORY OF OBSCURITY: A FILM ABOUT THE RESIDENTS (KTF FILMS, 2015) documentary. if having a documentary about an ANONYMOUS SUBECT seems like a farcically ABSURD concept, worry ye not, for it absolutely is.
for THE RESIDENTS, the theory of obscurity centers around how audiences perceive NEW ARTISTS, in that expectations are LIMITLESS until confronted with the actual work itself. after that something becomes attached to ARTIST and essentially defines their subsequent creative output. THE RESIDENTS, who apparently came out of the BAY AREA psychedelic movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, essentially sought to subvert this relationship by basically presenting as a NEW BAND with every release. this entailed DRASTIC shifts in CONCEPTS, MUSIC GENRES, COSTUMES, INSTRUMENTATION, etc. that UNIQUE perspective and ability to maintain their PERSONAL IDENTITY more than 40 years later has resulted in a highly INFLUENTIAL discography that has affected the likes of generations of musicians, authors and ARTISTS alike, such as those interviewed for this film including JERRY CASALE (DEVO), LES CLAYPOOL (PRIMUS), DEAN WEEN (WEEN), CHRIS CUTLER (HENRY COW), JOSH FREESE (DEVO, THE VANDALS), JERRY HARRISON (TALKING HEADS), DAVE EDWARDSON (NEUROSIS), ERIC DREW FELDMAN (CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, PIXIES), JOE HASSELVANDER (RAVEN), ROB CROW (PINBACK), JOSHUA BRODY (CLUB FOOT ORCHESTRA), MATT GROENING (creator, THE SIMPSONS), GARY PANTER (ARTIST), ADAM WELLER (ARTIST), JIM KNIPFEL (novelist) and PENN JILLETTE (magician, PENN & TELLER) among others.
the core of there legacy seems to be centered on their RELENTLESS creative EXPERIMENTATION which takes them into EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES related to the MUSIC and VIDEO PRODUCTION, COSTUME and SET DESIGN, and even MODERN COMMUNICATION and SOCIAL MEDIA apps. they always seem to use technology as a method of confronting and subverting the expectations of their audience. its INTERESTING because they have a huge discography but remain a band of the moment and are NOT NOSTALGIC in the least. if anything, their embrace makes diehard fans feel that their best work is yet to come.
i want to say just as an aside that i found it real INTERESTING to watch current and past members of THE RESIDENTS' INDEPENDENT label RALPH RECORDS and its superseding likewise private entity THE CRYPTIC CORPORATION speak of them in third-person. i am not sure if these members of the board of the corporation were the band, but it sure felt that way given how much they spoke about the INTIMATE inner-workings of the band over the decades. maybe that was the band hiding in plain sight? maybe? maybe not. does it matter?
i always welcome learning about ARTIST that challenge and provoke and THE RESIDENTS vary much fit into such. although i was familiar with them before, i plan to delve into their extensive discography unsure of the RELEVANT knowledge i picked up from this documentary. perhaps i am being misled, but then thatll work itself out if i come to the music with an OPEN MIND, which is all they or any other band could hope for with their audience. THEORY OF OBSCURITY: A FILM ABOUT THE RESIDENTS is most definitely worth checking out, irrespective of your familiarity with their IDIOSYNCRATIC ARTISTIC legacy or AVANT-GARDE music.
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