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Reviewed by - Matt Rowe

The Residents
Freak Show

The Residents lie just outside the peripheral view of Rock music.  Many have heard of the Bay Area band over the decades but few have actually seen or heard their brand of eccentric rock that capitalizes on and spotlights our human dualities or conceits and prejudices.  Mute Records revisits one of the band’s showcases, Freak Show, with a book-cased CD/DVD Deluxe Edition that is as classy to look at as it is to now visually and audibly enjoy.

Theatricality underscores The Residents’ productions and Freak Show is one of those types of show.  Freak Show was originally released in 1991 as a collection of music but soon after expanded into set of videos with the music as soundtrack to the video presentations.  Centred around the stories of several freaks of nature that included Benny the Bump, Herman the Human Mole, and 4 other unfortunate characters, Freak Show dived into the “same as us” feelings of emotions and desires of these personas.  Later, these same characters were more widely explored in a graphic novel.  Eventually, a stage show was produced expanding the characters further by adding several more to the mix.

The songs are a theatrical presentation arranged in linear fashion.  Freak Show begins by introducing the Show itself, parading the freaks in short introductions and then revealing them by longer biographical songs.  The people of Freak Show gain individuality in the songs in an attempt by the band to make a believable set of characters that draw you into their plight and life.  Further that with the videos found on the DVD and the entire set is fleshed out with familiar entities that just so happen to be plagued by uniqueness.  The rest is up to you to be drawn into the act as an outsider looking in much like a film production.

This CD/DVD book-styled Deluxe Edition has a cartoon introduction of the characters within its covers as well as envelope holders for the CD and DVD, individually.  The CD contains the original CD of songs while the DVD contains 6 videos later created to augment the storyline of Freak Show.

The beauty of Rock music is in its ‘arms wide open’ acceptance of incorporated styles.  It isn’t all about chords and drum rolls.  The Residents’ brand of Rock has been around for over 30-plus years, all shaded in complete anonymity.  The music is certainly avant-garde but is generally unclassifiable other than to say that it is art-music at its most potent.

As with all music off the beaten path, as Freak Show is and as all of The Residents’ 30-plus years of catalogue are, not everyone will find it to their liking.  But if you are enjoy a quirky walk into the unkempt, but lived in gardens and pathways of music outside the periphery, then Freak Show should entertain you.  It might also introduce some to the brilliant fun that is the brainchild of some unknown personalities who like it better that way.

Release Date: January 23, 2007
Produced by: The Residents
Format: CD

Track Listing:

CD - Everyone Comes To The Freak Show / Harry's Intorduction / Harry the Head / Herman Watches TV / Herman - The Human Mole / Wanda Does Her Act / Wanda - The Worm Woman / Jack Amuses the Crowd / Jello Jack - The Boneless Boy / Benny Bounces / Benny - The Bouncing Bump / Mickey - The Mumbling Midget / Lillie / Nobody Laughs When They Leave.

DVD - Herman the Human Mole 2004 / The Freak Show Press Release / Jelly Jack Video - 1992 / Benny The Bouncing Bump (NEC) 1991 / Freak Show Live (Prague) excerpt 1995 / Benny the Bouncing Bump 2004 / Pickled Punks (2004).

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