Review: Title In Limbo

Title in Limbo

Title in Limbo (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!

Richard J. Anderson: It’s surprising that there aren’t more bands that ape The Residents, considering their influence. There’s probably more than I can think of, but the most famous of the few I know is Renaldo & The Loaf, a British duo of non-musicians that heard The Residents and said “Hey! We can do that too!” So they did. And then they dropped a tape off at The Residents studios in San Francisco. And The Residents liked it. And so, The Residents decided to collaborate on an album. In 1981, Renaldo & The Loaf came back to San Francisco, and spent four days working on an album, but were unable to finish it. The tapes sat in the vault for two years until a financially despondent Residents, ruined by the expensive Mole Show tour and lagging album sales saw potential in it to make a quick buck while working on the next Mole Trilogy album. They finished it, with half of Renaldo & The Loaf—the other half only being able to provide some tape loops—and put it out in 1983.

Like Residue before it, this sounds like it was a throw-away project released for a quick buck. And it was. That doesn’t mean it isn’t really good. Because it is. It’s a tuneful, melancholy, and often brilliant album that regularly gets a shamefully short shrift. It’s terrifyingly out of print, and while a couple tracks were slapped on as a bonus on some releases of Not Available, a move which makes no sense, it’s almost impossible to find a legit copy for a reasonable price. A shame, shame, shame, especially since its place in Residents history has been cemented with performances of “Monkey and Bunny” on the 13th Anniversary Tour and “The Shoe Salesman” on the Demons Dance Alone tour.

I’m not qualified to speak about the album in term of Renaldo & The Loaf content as I’ve literally only heard two Renaldo & The Loaf solo tracks, but listening to Title in Limbo has me intensely curious about the rest of their output. The Residents did cover the Loaf cut “Songs for Swinging Larvae” for Icky Flix, which is another point in their favor. It seems Renaldo & The Loaf’s approach adds a delightful acoustic quality to the proceedings that echo the first few Residents albums, only with some actual musicianship.

Aside from the total out-of-print-ness of the album, the worst part of Title in Limbo is that The Residents’s last gasp of glory of the band before we slip into the abyss of mid–80s albums. Track this down and savor it. The desert awaits.

You’ve been warned.

Rev. Syung Myung Me: I’m a big fan of Renaldo & The Loaf — I was pretty amazed when I got to interview them for Kittysneezes.  They’re also really nice guys.  So, I like this album.  The standard line is “it’s a collaboration that sounds like neither”, but that’s not entirely true.  It’s a little different than the Residents and Renaldo, but it’s much more Residential in tone and feel.  It’s also strangely out of print, for being an album that the Residents seem to like so much — not only coming back to various tracks live, but also using them as parts of Our Finest Flowers the… quasi-greatest-hits album that I’m very excited to get to.

“Monkey and Bunny” — illustrated, sorta, on the cover — and “The Shoe Salesman” are probably the biggest “hits” from the record, and I get “Mahogany Wood” stuck in my head all the time, too.  The entire album is really good though.  I really enjoy this one, and it seems like an influence on Renaldo & The Loaf, too — their post Title In Limbo albums, Arabic Yodelling and (my favorite) The Elbow Is Taboo are more like this album than their previous albums; more song based instead of sound-based.

One final, odd thing.  About a week ago, I had a dream that I was listening this album in preparation for this article (my god, I actually dream about doing this?) and a bit came up that was from some popular song of the day.  I don’t remember what song, but it was clearly an homage to Title in Limbo.  Which I was amazed and thought was really cool, and wondered how many people listening to that particular hit single would know where that particular bit came from.  And maybe this album would have a cult resurgence.

A cult resurgence would totally be a great thing for this record.  Perhaps I should insist that my dream was accurate…. and it’s just a matter of finding the correct Big Hit Pop Song and the corresponding track on Title in Limbo.  Perhaps that’d convince the Residents to put this one back in print.  (Speaking of, I wish the Renaldo & the Loaf albums were back in print too — those are super-duper good and you should check all of them out, too.)

Aila: Title In Limbo is an album not only by The Residents, but also a collaboration with Renaldo and The Loaf. I am somewhat familiar with Renaldo and The Loaf as well, but only in a casual sense (I’ve got Songs For Swinging Larvae which, to be honest, I prefer to any of The Residents albums I’ve heard so far). While this could have, maybe should have, been a masterpiece combining the best of the two bands, the resulting album is actually a fairly mixed bag for me.

The production on this one is very crisp, which is to the album’s benefit, but it lacks some of the frenetic energy which I really liked on the one Renaldo and The Loaf album I’ve heard in its entirety. The more I listen to The Residents, the more I realize I really don’t like the main singer. I just don’t like the vocal style. He just rubs me the wrong way, and I don’t know why. There are a mixture of vocalists on this album, which is a good thing, but the main Residents singer does make several appearances of course (most annoyingly for me, on “Mahogany Wood,” which is also the one song I’d heard previously). The music is by and large very good though, and a few of these songs can compete with the best of either band in terms of music – the closer, “Extra: Version” certainly comes to mind. The early highlight is “The Shoe Salesman,” with it’s twangy sounds and bizarre story lyrics. The middle part of the album is certainly less consistent for me, the aforementioned “Mahogany Wood” is just annoying, but there are a few standouts, like “Africa Tree” and “The Sailor Song.”

I would say for fans of either The Residents or Renaldo and The Loaf, this is certainly worth a listen. I don’t think it’s the best work from either band. Of the Residents albums I’ve heard so far, it’s pretty much much right in the middle, maybe a little closer to the lower end of the middle to be honest. I think they could have done better on a collaboration like this, and they probably should have. Which isn’t to say it’s a waste, I just didn’t find it to be a huge thrill. I’m still basically a novice about this music, so my opinion should probably be taken with a grain of salt, but I would have to put this record in the category of “fans only.” Title In Limbo is not really an essential.

 

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