The Residents Visual History Book
A Sight for Sore Eyes, Vol. 2
Say what you will about The Residents, and you likely won’t be far off. This difficult-to-explain art collective began in 1974 and has over five-dozen albums in release, all enigmatic packages of art that may or may not make sense to the causal listener. I’ve been a semi-fan for quite a few of these decades, and I often can’t fathom what they are doing, other that it confuses and delights those of us who search for the cryptic.
Now, fifty albums is quite an oeuvre, and a lot of ephemera has come out of The Residents’ occasionally enlightening work product. This massive, four-hundred page A Sight for Sore Eyes, Vol. 2 may well be the ultimate coffee table book, but I was sent a giant PDF, which makes dusting and cleaning so much easier. Each section of the book looks to a specific year in The Residents’ timeline, with images, commentary, and clippings. What they do is set forth clearly, but WHY they do it remains their little secret. As a literary milepost, it’s one the few book’s I’ve read that correctly and reasonably uses the word “Gedankenexperiment.” It’s in Penn Gillette’s introduction, a worthy block of writing.
Musically, the band stuck to an infuriating lack of rhythm or other western musical tropes, and if you’re not in on the joke, it’s sometimes hard to see exactly where distortion becomes a tool to re-imagine what music might be. But if you can succeed, no one will talk about you at the punch bowl. Some of The Resident’s material was even viewed on the long-lamented Night Flight cable TV show back in the 1980s. That was bold programming for its day, and even in 2023’s fractured content-delivery jungle, it’s hard to find anything similar.
This is a large, impressive project, and if you’ve read this far, someone on your holiday list deserves this mammoth publication. You might consider gifting the full digital version to keep The Residents closer to your heart or your back pocket.
Highly recommended reading for the art nerds in us all.