The River of Crime
Known more for their iconographic eyeball-head costumes than their music, the long running art rock group The Residents have actually picked an almost perfect representation of their futuristic outlook with those gigantic peepers. The group was one of the first to embrace the CD and the band Web site, and they were even forward-thinking enough to release an interactive CD-ROM when computers were more of a luxury item than a necessity.
The band’s progressive thinking has been so ahead of the mark that it makes one of their current projects – a 20-part series of old time radio-style programs – seem like an oddly regressive step. True, they are releasing the series as a paid-subscription podcast, but even there it feels like the group has come a little too late to the party with that entertainment format.
This disc is a collection of the first five installments of the series, known as The River of Crime. As the first episode lays out, the narrator of the program is a collector of crimes, having been fascinated from an early age with people sent to the electric chair, and spends the other four episodes spinning dark tales of wrongful deeds and horrific incidents.
It is not unusual to have The Residents take a theme and spin it for their own uses, as they have tackled the works and story of Elvis Presley with their album The King and Eye and spun a number of unsavory stories from the Bible on Wormwood. Here though, the theme feels a little underdone. The production quality of the programs is top notch, as is to be expected, but the stories seem to flitter by without leaving much of mark, giving the listener not much to grasp onto or to haunt them after the disc has ended.
The band does provide a second disc featuring only the background music for the programs, most of which does have a lingering effect. The musicians have digitized most of their sounds to a glossy sheen, but there is still a playful, warbling spirit that the group still uses to wonderful effect here. Released on its own, the disc would fit in nicely with the band’s vast catalog, but the accompanying radio programs feel like a mere trifle when you consider what The Residents are truly capable of.