Giant eyeballs invade Minneapolis

The Residents move around a lot

Keri Carlson

After their 1979 album, “Eskimo,” which took four years to create, the Residents wanted to do something easier and with more pop. They wanted to sell out.

So the Residents, an anonymous group that wears giant eyeball costumes with tuxedos, made their 1980 classic, “Commercial Album.” The album does not just imply a sound designed for consumerism. The band made each of the album’s 40 songs one minute long, the same amount of time as the average commercial.

The idea was to compress the spacey, avant-garde sound of the Residents into a nice and neat package. And because society now digests everything in one-minute segments, the Residents created strange art music for the ever-growing attention deficit disorder culture.

Even though “Commercial Album” features the Residents at their most accessible, they’re as commercial as a group composed of eyeballs can be – which is not much.

Twenty-five years after the original release, “Commercial Album” still sounds strange and uniquely Residents. The album is spiffed up with a new CD booklet full of glossy photos, bizarre cartoons and the lyrics to every song. However, when you’re able to read the words, the songs seem even more ridiculous. For instance, on the song “Troubled Man,” robotic chipmunk voices sing, “His wife left him long ago for someone without skin/ And now he faced the mirror and he saw a double chin.”

“Commercial Album” is a great achievement for the Residents, yet the album itself is overshadowed when the songs are accompanied by visuals. The Residents’ original videos, made when the album first came out, can be found in the New York Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.

As part of the 25th anniversary, a DVD of the “Commercial Album” is being released as well. Along with the music videos they made themselves, the DVD features videos other artists have created for the Residents’ songs. Each video is as odd as the song it accompanies.

Listening to the CD makes your head spin like a merry-go-round, but the DVD is more like a trip on a rocket. The DVD is where the true absurdity of the Residents comes through.

Unfortunately, the CD and DVD are being sold separately. So unless you’re a huge Residents fan, all you really need is the DVD.