Review: Duck Stab

Duck Stab/Buster & Glen

Duck Stab/Buster & Glen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, we’re stealin’ the idea from the Sparks Project and doing one with probably even more records out there — The Residents!  And this time we’re changing it up a little bit — we’ve got two hardcore Residents fans in me and Rich, but Aila is, at best, a casual fan, who will be hearing about 99% of these records for the first time.  DANGEROUS!  So, enjoy, THE RESIDENTS PROJECT!

Rev. Syung Myung Me: Well, this is awkward.  I already happened to write about Duck Stab.  Wrote quite a bit on it too.  So, uh, yeah.  I guess I’ll just forward folks to that one?  Short version, I quite like it.  Yep.  Everyone should listen to Duck Stab.  There’s a reason it seems to be most people’s introduction to the Residents.

Richard J. Anderson: Now we’re talking! This is the disc that made me a Residents fan. At this point, everything clicked, and all of what made early Residents music so compelling connected and coalesced into this wonderful album of twisted little pop ditties. For any budding Residents fan, if you don’t start with Duck Stab, you should at least start with The Commercial Album for reasons I’ll explain two weeks from now. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the wonders of Duck Stab/Buster and Glen. First, a word on the official album title. This began life as a densely packed 7“ EP called Duck Stab!, which consisted of the first first seven songs on the album, albeit in a different running order. Sixteen minutes of music is a lot to fit on to seven inches of vinyl, and the sound quality suffered. Not sales, though. It was their first bona fide success since their cover of ”(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction“ back in 1976. In response, they took the 7” and paired it up with another side’s worth of material they intended to make a similar EP out of titled Buster & Glen. The result was their first really popular album—at least as popular as a Residents album can be.

Make no mistake, these are pop songs, albeit pop songs as interpreted through the twisted funhouse mirror of The Residents, with all the attendant creepiness, sonic weirdness, and odd lyrics. It’s also the first album by The Residents to feature work by long-time collaborator Snakefinger, who plays guitar and probably a lot of other stuff on here. His professional playing and expertise gives the tracks the grounding they need in actual musicianship. Of course, they still have that Residents sound. I’d even say this is the record that out and out defined what people think of when they think of The Residents, that is to say, if they think of The Residents. There is not a bad cut on this record, and a good number of them are out and out classics. “Constantinople,” “Sinister Exaggerator,” “The Booker Tease,” “Lizard Lady,” “Semolina,” “Hello Skinny,” and the gut-wrenchingly beautiful “The Electrocutioner” are all songs you simply need to hear, and hear now.

Why are you still reading this? If you have any interest in The Residents—and if you’re reading this, you must have—you need to get this album now.

Unless you have it already. Then, I suppose, you’re excused.

Aila: Duck Stab is easily the best of The Residents albums I’ve heard so far. I’m not entirely sure of the title of this album, it may well be Duck Stab! / Buster & Glen, but regardless of what it’s called, it’s a major improvement over it’s predecessor, Fingerprince.

Right from the beginning this seems like a more cohesive album than what came before. “Constantinople” establishes the rhythmic synths and percussion-driven sounds that dominate this album. There is of course plenty of humor, and a lot of the songs could still accurately be described as ‘stupid’ in my opinion, but this time it’s a lot more entertaining and re-listenable. The first half of the album is slightly stronger than the second, but it’s hard to find many weaknesses. The standouts for me are probably “Blue Rosebuds” and “Birthday Boy.” The only song I’d previously heard (having appeared on Louisiana’s Lick, unless I’m greatly mistaken) is the story-song “Hello Skinny,” which comes right before the excellently bizarre closer, “The Electrocutioner.” A clue to the overall tone of most of these tracks can be found in the title of the second song, “Sinister Exaggerator,” as most of the songs definitely have a slightly sinister undertone. They are also noticeably self-contained songs, which wasn’t the case on some of the previous albums. That might not be the biggest deal for any band in the world, but I think it works pretty well for The Residents, since their unique style can certainly get a bit grating if they stick to one thread for too long. Shorter tracks that don’t repeat forever work best for me. The production is also relatively crisp for the era, and it’s easy to see why this is apparently considered more ‘accessible’ than their earlier work.

This is probably the best starting point for the relatively-early period of The Residents. I’ve certainly enjoyed some of what I’ve heard before this point, but this honestly blows the rest of the records out of the water (a strange metaphor which I’m not sure I understand, but I’ll go with it). I still haven’t heard most of what comes after this, but I feel fairly confident in saying that if you don’t like Duck Stab, it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy any of The Residents. It’s honestly kind of restored my enthusiasm for listening to these albums, and I’m looking forward to the rest.

 

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