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Music / The Residents

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Meet The Residents

"It's said that the thing one never forgets about a person is their gender.
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."
- Uncle Willie's Highly Opinionated Guide to The Residents

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: Cryptic Corporation employee Hardy Fox was a founding member. He left the band in 2016, and did not announce his involvement until 2017. He died in 2018, of brain cancer, a day before Halloween.


For additional info, Matt Groening wrote The True Story of The Residents for Uncle Willie. A documentary, Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents, was released in 2015.

Albums with their own TV Tropes pages:

Other projects:

Associated tropes:

  • 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!"
  • Album Within An Album: The Big Bubble
  • 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.'
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Seriously, good luck comparing Meet The Residents (or any of their demos) with anything they've put out since Not Available got released.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The titular character of Gingerbread Man might be one, if its description in Live at the Fillmore is anything to go by...
    Randy: "...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."
  • 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, and Nolan Cook.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Possibly the only reason they got away with the artwork (NSFW) for Tweedles! was the way that they packaged it.
  • Gorn: The climax of God in Three Persons.
  • The Hedonist: The protagonist of Tweedles!
  • 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.
  • Mind Screw
  • Miniscule Rocking: Commercial Album, which contains 40 tracks all lasting a minute each.
  • Odd Friendship: With Penn, who at one point joined them on tour.
  • Official Fan-Submitted Content: The entire source material for I Am A Resident!
  • 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.
  • 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. Similarly "Krafty Cheese" references Kraft cheese and the fact that the group thought the song sounded like "cheesy Kraftwerk".
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Stylistic Suck:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: When it's invoked, it's Played for Laughs.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: In a few cases.


Example of: