THE RESIDENTS are genderless.
The next most memorable feature is the face.
THE RESIDENTS are faceless.
The third thing we remember is personality.
THE RESIDENTS have no personalities."
The Residents are a San Francisco-based avant-garde rock group that has released over 100 albums, starting with 1974's Meet the Residents. They helped pioneer the modern Music Video, and produced some of the creepiest songs, both original and covers, for nearly five decades — all while staying anonymous to the public.
Their persona has long been as a faceless collective who prefer to focus on their music. Their management group, The Cryptic Corporation, handles their legal affairs and public relations. The individual bandmates are credited under nicknames, when at all.
To this day, only one member is known: Hardy Fox, one of the Cryptic Corporation heads. He was the group's keyboard player, pianist and lead songwriter, among many other roles, from the founding years until 2016. It wasn't until 2017 that he admitted his role in the group. He died of brain cancer on October 30th, 2018. He was 73.
Albums with their own TV Tropes pages:
- The Third Reich 'n Roll (1976)
- Duck Stab! / Buster & Glen (1978)
- Eskimo (1979)
- The Commercial Album (1980)
- Aborted Arc: The American Composer Series, where the Residents cover songs by prominent American musicians. Word of Saint Paul says that it was because the Residents had to pay royalties for the covers. The decline of records and cassettes in favor of the compact disc was also a factor - the albums were meant to be split into two distinct halves covering different artists, something the group didn't feel would work as well on CD, since the format wasn't divided into "sides".
- Mark Of The Mole was intended to be the first of a six part "trilogy", of which only four albums were released - the accompanying tour was a financial disaster that almost broke up the band, so they opted to move on to other projects. Of the released albums, Mark Of The Mole is the only one to have an overall plot, and it ends very ambiguously. The other three (Tunes Of Two Cities, The Big Bubble and Intermission) largely consist of music supposedly made in-universe by the clashing cultures depicted in the story.
- Acceptable Targets: invoked They've taken half(?)-joking potshots at The Beatles a few times. Around the time The Beatles Play The Residents and The Residents Play The Beatles was released, (since-debunked) rumor had it that the Residents completely despised the Beatles.
- When Carlos officially left the band, Randy followed up the announcement of such (made on at least one live show) by shouting "Fuck Carlos!"
- Achievements in Ignorance: The band initially hoped to invoke this—they refused any form of musical training, as they felt it would give them artificial preconceptions of music.
- Album Within An Album: The Big Bubble
- Almighty Janitor: Frequent guest singer Molly Harvey did not have a musical career at all prior to the band—their label had hired her to work in mail-order.
- Appropriated Appellation: Before they had settled on a name, they sent out a demo tape to Warner Brothers. Because the return address didn't include a name, their rejection letter was simply addressed to "Residents".
- Similarly, the first official release using the Residents name was a single called Santa Dog, and when they had a copy sent to President Richard Nixon, the package was sent back, marked Refused; In 1999, they released Refused, a compilation of reworkings of "Santa Dog", including the original single, and the front cover even featured the original shipping label.
- As the Good Book Says...: Discussed and deconstructed on Wormwood.Randy (as Mr. Skull): Nowhere does the Good Book say 'Jesus loves me.'
- Avant-garde Music: About the easiest way to describe their music.
- Ax-Crazy: The narrator of their version of "Satisfaction".
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma: "Om Is Where The Art Is," off The Warner Brothers Album.Seattle wasn't built in a day,
Did you know that? I bet you did.
I have to be right, I cannot be wrong,
After all, Jesus wasn't built in a day.
- Concept Album: Most of them.
- Cover Album: Their "American Composers" series:
- Creator In-Joke: Quite a few.
- Creepy Children Singing: Subverted; it was actually regular collaborator Molly Harvey, although she was so convincing that many thought an actual child had done the recording.
- The Cover Changes the Meaning: Where to begin?
- Darker and Edgier: Nobody can agree when exactly, but after a certain point, their albums became progressively heavier and bleaker.
- Dirty Old Man: Randy, off-again on-again.
- Dream Team: They did a collab with fellow avant-gardists Renaldo And The Loaf, called Title In Limbo, in 1983.
- Todd Rundgren was one of the guests on The Gingerbread Man
- The Commercial Album had, as its special guests, the likes of Fred Frith, Lene Lovich, and Andy Partridge. Furthermore, in 2019 it was confirmed the Special Secret Appearances were David Byrne and Brian Eno, initially left uncredited at their own request.
- Tweedles! saw the band working side by side with the entire Film Orchestra of Bucharest.
- The single '"DIE! DIE! DIE!" from Metal, Meat, and Bone features lead vocals by Black Francis of The Pixies.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The band spawned from a loose collective of friends, who were all still learning to play when the group started. Songs from around this time were not so much written as they were worked together piecemeal from snippets of jam sessions. In the case of Santa Dog and prior works, they didn't so much have a lineup as a rotating cast of personnel.
- Up until the late seventies, there was no one Singing Resident. Even then, the other members all regularly did vocals on albums until the early '80s, at the earliest.
- The role of Mr. Skull was originally played by Hardy Fox, under the alias "Dead-Eye Dick."
- Initially, the band did not use their signature eyeball masks or tuxedoes, instead using a variety of one-off costumes for their publicity photos (such as the Beatles parody costumes for Meet the Residents era or the newspaper costumes for the The Third Reich 'n Roll music video). It wasn't until 1979's Eskimo when the band settled on the eyeballs and tuxedoes as their "default" appearance.
- Eldritch Abomination: The titular character of Gingerbread Man.But the cookie man somehow escapes his usual fate, and he becomes the hunter, instead of the prey. But being more spirit than substance, this gingerbread man has an unusual appetite, and he feeds on energy; dark, brooding, soul-sucking energy... and the human race offers more than he can count.
- Electronic Music: The Residents were notoriously early adopters of electronic instruments in general—it began influencing their overall sound as early as the late seventies. By the '90s, it was a key aspect of their sound.
- The Faceless: The band always performs masked, and would leave their true identities to speculation. During The New '10s, however, the bandmates began going under individual names, and a former member eventually outed himself.
- Faceless Eye: Their signature masks.
- Fake Guest Star: Oh, so many of them. Notable instances include Snakefinger, Carla Fabrizio, Molly Harvey, Nolan Cook, and Eric Drew Feldman.
- Fanservice: The cover of "God in Three Persons" depicts the protagonist, Mr. X, and the two twins, who are naked and seen from behind. Since part of the story is that Mr. X can never quite figure out which of the twins is "male" and which is "female", this comes with a hefty dash of Viewer Gender Confusion: see YMMV.
- The Freak Show: Freak Show
- Harsh Vocals: The lead singer of the group is known for extremely twangy vocals which, which got progressively more gravelly as he aged. The others could get in on it, too—particularly on Not Available, where even Hardy manages a pretty good take.
- In the Style of...
- Kayfabe Music: Has always been present to some degree, with at least one member using the Cryptic Corporation as a front to face the public without blowing his cover. Became more prevalent in their later years, as the band began taking on distinctive personas. The most notable cases are the lead singer, who often takes on numerous personas at once, and Hardy Fox, who kept up his Charles Bobuck persona even after leaving the band.
- Long Title: The bonus disc included with Animal Lover bears the full title of I stood at my window staring at an arcing streetlight. A sudden wind made me pull my shoulders to my ears. I pissed into the dark. It smelled like canned tuna. My swollen lip throbbed. I could still taste the blood. My eyes rolled back looking for memories. I stopped. I was changing details in my mind,remembering only what I wanted it to be, not what it was. I had only a short time to do what had to be done, after that it would all be forever absorbed by my imaginary Jack.
- Marionette Motion: The band's stage choreography often tended towards this, sometime extending to the band themselves.
- Mind Screw
- Miniscule Rocking: Commercial Album, which contains 40 tracks all lasting a minute each.
- N-Word Privileges: Averted during the "Black Barry" suite of Cube-E, which deals in gospel songs, spirituals, and blues/jazz music.
- Odd Friendship: With Penn, who at one point joined them on tour.
- Orphaned Series: The Mole Series of six albums, of which only three appeared.
- The American Composer series, which got buried two albums in under a load of royalty discussions.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: The band, in their earliest years, billed themselves as pioneers of "the San Mateo Sound."
- Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Hardy Fox had a uniquely unpleasant variation of this—in interviews as Chuck, he stated he had horrible stage fright, which bandmates and producers would openly encourage.
- Precision F-Strike: Their songs are usually rather clean, but they will belt out an expletive every now and then.
- Pun-Based Title: The Third Reich 'n' Roll
- The song titles "Guylum Bardot" and "The Booker Tease" are puns on the names of musicians: Guy Lombardo, a big band leader, and Booker T. Jones, front-man of the instrumental soul group Booker T & The M.G.'s. Simiarly "Krafty Cheese" references Kraft cheese and the fact that the group thought the song sounded like "cheesy Kraftwerk".
- Put on a Bus: After the "Randy, Chuck, and Bob" personas were retired following the conclusion of the Shadowland tour, Randy Rose was established to have been "fired" by the band and begun a new career as a painter.
- Rock Opera:Though they've never been referred to as such, most of their concept albums could technically be this.
- "Sesame Street" Cred: Appeared in the costumes they wore during the Cube-E tour on Pee-wee's Playhouse, which they also scored on occasion.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: "Mother No More".
- The Show Must Go Wrong: Discussed on "The Crash At Crush"
- Skull for a Head: What the band resorted to when the Red Eyeball mask was stolen and returned in a beat-up state—the skull in question was originally a prop for a photoshoot.
- Stealth Pun: Their Cover Version of "Kaw-Liga", originally by Hank Williams, prominently samples "Billie Jean" - this has been interpreted as a reference to Williams' marriage to Billie Jean Horton.
- Stylistic Suck:
- Their cover of The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" isn't called the "most intentionally repulsive song" for nothing.
- The Big Bubble, a Self-Titled Album by a fictional band.
- All over the place in their demo albums, which combined a conscious lack of professional training with an irreverent sense of humor.
- Surreal Music Video: Every music video they've ever made.
- Those Wacky Nazis: The Third Reich 'n' Roll has only two tracks, each called "Swastikas on Parade" and "Hitler Was a Vegetarian." The cover art depicts Dick Clark in a Nazi uniform surrounded by drawings of Hitler dancing.
- Train Song: The concept album Ghost of Hope is all about notable train wrecks, so this is inevitable.
- Updated Re-release: Inverted; WB:RMX saw release over a decade before The Warner Brothers Album.
- Initially invoked with their second album Not Available. As part of the band's "theory of obscurity", the album was withheld from release, with The Third Reich 'n Roll (the second album to be released) being billed as the band's third album in its liner notes while Not Available was only alluded to. This was replicated in the band's "pREServed" series of archival rereleases by having the reissue of Not Available and its catalog number skipped over in the first wave of rereleases and instead released later on.
- The Big Bubble is billed as "Part 4 of The Mole Trilogy" despite the third part never being released or finished.
- Vocal Evolution: The lead singer's trademark style wasn't really happened upon until the mid-seventies, and even then, he tended to play around with it an awful lot.
- We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: When it's invoked, it's Played for Laughs.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Their lyrics are sometimes oblique enough to evoke this trope, but in a few cases, this is the intended effect.
- Yandere: In Wormwood, Bathsheba Bathing basically presents King David as one of these, the unsettling melody only adding to it. Especially due to how theres some... rapey implications too.