March 11, 2008

Revisiting The Third Reich n' Roll

Sure, we've all seen this before, The Residents' first film using a excerpt from their second album, The Third Reich n' Roll (1974-75). It's constantly showing up in music video retrospectives and exhibits. But until recently, I've forgotten how good it is. In two tracks (one for each side of the record), they parody 30 pop songs from the 60's, often layered on top of each other with machine guns and explosions mixed in. Even by Residents standards, it's abrasive. But it's also very funny, innovative, and punk rock, from way back when punk was just a gleam in Malcom McLaren's eye. The album cover portrays Dick Clark in a Nazi stormtrooper uniform. He allegedly found it amusing and had it framed for his office. These guys did it all: composed music, designed their artwork, made movies... no wonder I was so enamored with them in art school, when I spent many evenings drawing, tripping on acid, and listening to the Residents simultaneously. I owned every release on first issue Ralph Records vinyl. Commercial Album and Eskimo were my favorites, but these days, Third Reich n' Roll sounds refreshingly different. I'm also now familiar with the 60's songs they were destroying, which makes it more rewarding. I'm not into any of their studio recordings after the acclaimed Mole Trilogy. but I always enjoyed the theatrical, mind-bending live shows I attended in the 90's, and after nearly 40 years, they're still prolific and unique. If you're brave, give a listen to their cover of the Stones' "Satisfaction", a single which was released to promote the album but not included on it. Guaranteed to cause cranial hemorrhaging.

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