Review: Have A Bad Day

Cover of "Have a Bad Day"
Cover of Have a Bad Day

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:  On Halloween in 1995, The Residents released their first fully interactive CD-ROM, Bad Day on the Midway. A spiritual successor to Freak Show, Bad Day was an adventure game described by Wired as “Twin Peaks meets SimCity,” where the player jumps between different characters to solve a murder mystery. It was well received at the time, winning a pair of awards. The game’s visuals by the late Jim Ludtke are suitably creepy and well done, especially for the mid–90s. Praise was also heaped on the music, which did play a major role in the game. It was a Residents project, after all. Naturally, The Residents opted to put the game’s music out as an album, calling it Have a Bad Day.

I’ve never played Bad Day on the Midway, and so I didn’t know what to expect when I jumped into the soundtrack album. Have a Bad Day is what it says on the tin. The tracks are mostly instrumentals in the MIDI style of 90s Residents albums. There’s some vocals here and there, most of them from what I assume to be characters in the game. I was pleased to hear Molly Harvey sing on “God’s Teardrops,” but her other vocal spot on “Lottie, The Human Log” is less compelling. I didn’t expect much singing at all here, and any chance to hear Molly sing is almost always worth it. Devoid of context, however, the music on Have a Bad Day doesn’t captivate. Theres a few interesting moments scattered about the album, but I can’t recall exactly where, save for Ms. Harvey’s brief spotlight moment mentioned above.

There isn’t much else to be said for Have a Bad Day beyond that. Even the cover art isn’t terribly interesting. I’d say to skip this one, unless you’re a fan of the game, or really adore the The Residents’s 90’s work. Have a Bad Day is the first album in the entire The Residents Project that I haven’t heard before, in whole or in part. It’s something I skipped, owing in no small part to my general dislike The Residents early–90’s material. So why bother? Listening to Have a Bad Day for the first time doesn’t reinforce my original view on the album, but I certainly don’t feel like I was missing out on anything. You aren’t missing out, either.

Rev. Syung Myung Me:  I’m pretty much in the same boat as Rich on this one.  It was one of the last ones I got when I was working my way back through the discography back in the day, and not one I listen to… ever.  Honestly, I barely remember anything about it — even when I’m listening to it.  Maybe it’d have helped if I’d ever played the game, but… yeah.  That said, the “Bad Day Concentrate” that’s on the Icky Flix DVD which even had images and whatnot from the game to go along with it made about the same impression, which is to say, just about none.

Honestly, I listen to Hunters more than Have A Bad Day.  And, well, Hunters isn’t even a real album.

Molly is awesome though.  It’s too bad she never did an album on her own (or with the Residents a la the first two Snakefinger albums).  Her book, He Cuts Hog, was pretty neat, though!

So, uh, yeah.  Anyone out there actually play the game?  Does that improve the album?  Or what?  And is the game cool?  (I do like the Timmy bits from the Freak Show DVD that Mute put out a little while ago.)

All right – if that paragraph up there didn’t let you know what I (don’t) think of this album, how about the fact that I believe I’ve now typed more stuff NOT about Have a Bad Day in the “review” for Have a Bad Day.  Just a… non-entity of a record.  At least it’s not terrible like George & James?

Aila: ‘Wow! What a cool place!,” says the character Timmy at the beginning of Have A Bad Day. Wow, what a steaming pile of crap, I say.

There is almost nothing to recommend about this album. Actually, scratch that – there is NOTHING to recommend about this album. It is a new low, to a depth I didn’t even think possible for The Residents. To begin with, it’s the third consecutive ‘fairground’ concept album. First there was the relatively decent Freak Show, followed by a seemingly pointless follow-up The Gingerbread Man, and now it’s an even more watered down duplicate of the same idea. It’s kind of mind-boggling that the band would even do this. This is the flogging of an already well-flogged dead horse. It’s just a horse skeleton at this point, but the Residents are still whacking away. If there were any redeeming qualities to the songs or music there might be something left to salvage, but unfortunately there really aren’t any. The music might be the worst the band have ever put out. It would probably sound bad for the soundtrack to an early 90s video game honestly, let alone a supposedly professionally-produced album. Awful synth sounds comprise most of it, and it’s produced in the worst way. My pet peeve, the Residents’ main vocalist, is absent on much of the album, but it really doesn’t help. The vocals on “Lottie The Human Log,” for instance, are possibly the most obnoxious of any Residents song. There isn’t really even a highlight to recommend. Not even a song with a title like “God’s Teardrops” is worth a few minutes of anyone’s time.

Avoid Have A Bad Day at all costs. I’m not a fan of burning books or records, but if it weren’t for the countless digital copies, I think I’d actually be in favor of incinerating every record of this one. I know The Residents are capable of much better, and I hope what comes after this is an improvement. It better not be another one set in some sort of sideshow.

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