Review: Icky Flix Original Soundtrack

Icky Flix Soundtrack Cover
Cover to the Icky Flix Soundtrack Album

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:  The Residents, you may not be surprised to know, have always been a very visual band. They were also one of the first groups to embrace music video—not terribly surprising since their first real project was a film called Vileness Fats, which was never finished, or released in full. Icky Flix is the collection of The Residents music videos, along with some newly created videos for classic songs. Why then, are we reviewing it? Because, in traditional Residents fashion, they’re not content to just throw everything on a DVD and call it a day. They also decided to re-record all of the songs, in sync with the videos, to provide an alternate soundtrack.

The Icky Flix soundtrack album collects a handful of these re-recordings, along with a new soundtrack to a new edit of Vileness Fats. Frustratingly, the CD doesn’t collect many of the more interesting re-recordings. Instead, we get a pair of medleys from Have a Bad Day and Gingerbread Man, the climax of Disfigured Night, and a Renaldo and the Loaf track, “Songs for Swinging Larvae.” The only two classic Residents tracks on the disc are the soundtrack to the Third Reich ‘n’ Roll video, and “Kick a Picnic” off Our Finest Flowers. Meanwhile, the DVD features songs like “Hello Skinny,” “Constantinople,” and the classic “One Minute Movies” with videos for “Moisture,” “The Act of Being Polite,” “Perfect Love,” and “The Simple Song.” We could have had a CD with all of that, and more, but instead we get this, and 17 minutes of contextless audio from a new edit of some of the Vileness Fats footage.

The band is still in its transitional phase, which might explain the choice—one I have no problem with—of re-recording their songs. In concert and elsewhere, The Residents have made revisiting and redoing their own work a staple of their career, and manage to make it work. Due to the need to match the visuals, the re-recorded songs aren’t much different in terms of arrangement, but they are decent listening. It’s hard not to re-record some of the more atrocious MIDI tracks from the early 90s and not improve upon them. The sonic palette is not dissimilar from Wormwood, but with a harder edge. This owes, I suspect, to the addition of Nolan Cook to the backing band, whose guitar style goes a long way in putting The Residents sound back on track.

I can’t recommend the Icky Flix soundtrack in good faith, only because of the choice of material thrown on it. If The Residents had actually turned this into a re-recorded greatest hits release, akin to Our Finest Flowers, it would have been much more interesting. There are only three tracks on the CD worth your time: “The Third Reich ‘n’ Roll,” “Songs for Swinging Larvae,” and “Kick a Picnic.” Everything else on the disc is extraneous at best. However, the DVD is worth your time. Not all of the new videos are good, but there’s a lot of gold on the soundtrack. It’s also worth it for the classic Residents videos, and their re-recorded soundtrack.

Icky Flix
Icky Flix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rev. Syung Myung Me:  Icky Flix is one of my favorite releases — though the Icky Flix Soundtrack could be much, much better.  I wish they’d included the radical re-workings of things like “Constantinople”, but at least we get “Kick A Picnic”.  The choice to include the Vileness Fats suite is cool on the DVD (by cutting over 10 minutes from the previous VHS release and re-doing the audio, Vileness Fats is actually somewhat enjoyable), but a little weird on the CD.  Like Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats (which I don’t think we even bothered covering on the Residents Project), without the images, it’s a little… flat.

The concentrate of Have A Bad Day is, uh, better than the album, but, well, only because it’s shorter.  Oddly enough, despite having done concentrates of this and Gingerbread Man already for Our Tired, Our Poor, Our Huddled Masses, they re-did them for the Icky Flix project, and… for whatever reasons, these don’t quite work as well as those earlier edits.

So, yeah — the soundtrack… kinda eh.  From what I understand, it’s a little hard to find now, but that’s not really a huge loss.  It might be something of interest, but not essential.  What IS essential is the DVD of Icky Flix, which IS still in print.  It’s such a great idea too — not only did the Residents compile almost all their videos (only “Don’t Be Cruel” is missing, and having seen that one on the 20 Twisted Questions Laserdisc release, you’re not missing much), but they also made a bunch of NEW videos… AND THEN re-recorded 5.1 re-arrangements/self-covers for each song.  (I mean, you knew that last bit already since that’s what we’ve been talking about all this time, but it’s worth mentioning again to show the level of work the Residents put into this release.  Not to mention the TON of easter eggs and interstitials and all the other stuff.)

The Residents’ videos, particularly the early ones like “Hello Skinny” and “One Minute Movies” are really amazing, particularly given that they were all low-budget independent productions.  Most were directed by Grahame Whifler, who went on to be a director of other videos and horror films.  If you’re interested in short film and the art of the music video, Icky Flix really is a must-have, no matter what you think of the Residents’ music.  (I would say the same thing about Björk’s Volumen video compilation release as well.)  Artists with such a strong visual style are relatively rare, but the Residents are really amazing at it.  I think I’ve mentioned before that while my mom’s not a fan of the music, not only does she love looking at the new Residents albums as they come out, she was also amazed by Icky Flix.  If only the CD had as much put into it as the DVD did — it’d be a perfect project.

(This is an aside: The Icky Flix tour was the first time I got to see the Residents — and they put on a hell of a show.  So I think I might have a special place in my heart for this project… but then again, it’s really a legitimately good release, too.  Rose-colored goggles don’t come into play here.)

Aila: I guess the Icky Flix soundtrack is the sort of release that could be described as ‘fans only.’ At least the cd audio portion (the only part I’ve experienced, and the part I am reviewing) is certainly nothing to be very excited about from my perspective.

The main part of Icky Flix was apparently a dvd compilation of their videos. I can only imagine that’s a lot more interesting than the audio-only version. Unfortunately, as an album, this is pretty poor. The first half of it consists of re-recorded versions of previous Residents songs, none of which are really improved by the updates. In fact, in the case of a couple songs like “The Gingerbread Man” and “Kick A Picnic,” these are vastly inferior versions of songs which did at least have some redeeming virtues in their original forms. They aren’t even really done in a way that makes them seem particularly interesting as ‘covers.’ There are also a couple new tracks, like the “Icky Flix” themes, and a pretty annoying semi-parody / cover of “We Are The World” called “Just For You (Disfigured Night, Part 7).” The second part of the album is from their Vileness Fats project, which had been previously released in different forms. I found this part fairly hard to follow, and aside from a few mildly amusing moments, it’s wasn’t really worth listening to in this context. Had I seen the video portion, or seen or heard the earlier release Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats, I might have understood it a bit better. As it is, this whole album/soundtrack seems like a jumble of out-of-place fragments. I couldn’t make a whole lot of it, to be honest. The one thing it did have going for it was the production values were fairly high, which I’m assuming will be the case from here on out. I can’t imagine them going back to the tinny MIDI sounds of the late 80s to mid 90s, at least.

I certainly can’t recommend the audio soundtrack portion of Icky Flix to anyone but a hardcore Residents fan. I’d like to check out the video at some point, but I’m basing this purely on the soundtrack. As an audio album, this was pretty underwhelming.

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