Tierra Whack and The Residents
Or did I?
I discovered The Residents in a GameSpot thread. The topic was whether rap was music or cultural degeneration. It was an uneven split (in favour of the latter) between the people who would grow into the Cultural Bolshevists and Brown Shirts of the next iteration of the internet (social media Skinner Boxes) which decimated the weird, semi-spontaneous communities that popped up even on random websites; like GameSpot, for instance.
Anyway, one of the Braunhemden (a music student, so obviously they knew precisely what constituted not only music, but also Entartete Musik!) posted a link to One-Minute Movies: a music video directed by Graeme Whiffler, compiling four of the one minute songs from Commercial Album. Despite my boots being firmly imprisoned in the Kulturbolschewismus concentration camp (I posted The Corner by Common, but The Residents fan somehow thought it was derivative and generic!), it was love at first hearing.
While The Residents are better known for their performance art (to promote Commercial Album they purchased 40 one-minute advertising slots over three days on KFRC) than their music, their discography is a fantastical Rabbit-hole history of nursery, pop and folk, as beautiful as it is hilarious—or lyrical and dramatic when their music is not made out of other people’s.
But even when do they make their music by mutilating other musician’s miscellanea (sometimes literally, as in the case of their groundbreaking Beatles collage on The Beatles Play the Residents and The Residents Play The Beatles), their songs still manage to create an invented reality as convincing as the combination of one’s own ratiocinations and imaginings as well as the collective dilution of everyone else’s out of which we fashion some bastardised approximation of what we accept to be an uninvented reality, in the same way the greatest surrealists did.
In creating this world, their lyrics are just as important as their heterodox melodies and rhythms—as rich in detail as the greatest folk or rap songs, and steeped in a surreal sensuality whether serving as the libretto for introspective operatic concept albums about anomie in the aftermath of September 11, or parodying the banality of pop lyrics.
The surest way to predict the future—at least outside of mathematics—is to know the past. So it should come as no surprise that pop music has been marching in the direction of commercureallism ever since pop art took the history lessons of the modernists and made jokes out of them; or worlds, as The Residents did. This evolution has not only cemented rap music as part of mainstream culture, revolutionising (or destroying, depending on who you ask) pop music by allowing it far greater creative freedom than it enjoyed a decade or two ago when doing something different condemned you to a niche, rather than launched you into the stratosphere; a benefit it has shared with rap, allowing for the mainstream success of both Finally Rich and To Pimp a Butterfly.
And thus we now have a rap album of one minute songs; with a fifteen minute music video directed by Thibaut Duverneix to accompany it!
Whack World by Tierra Whack may be surreal, but it’s certainly not surrealist; when she says “ With the visuals for Whack World, I was just doing it for me. I wanted to bring my idea to life and bring truth to the viewer’s eye.” I believe her. The lyrics may be funny (LINK fruit salad), but they’re not ironic—God forbid, some are even earnest! “Endless nights I cried when Hulitho died, My city needs me, I promised I wouldn't fail 'em, If you love somebody, I promise that you should tell 'em”.
Yet, in spite of her desire to illuminate rather than obscure, she manages to create a world nearly as rich as the surrealists and their children—all without a shroud of irony! What a whacky world we live in where the commercial popularisation of pop art has allowed the artistic imagination to once again be expressed without the secular flagellation of aesthetic Protestantism that is irony!
So, on second thoughts, I disavow my cultural bolshevism and embrace the madcap musical evolutions instigated by capitalism’s exploitation of anti-capitalist art: from the literary doodads of dada composing rich tragedies as affecting as contemporaneous theatre, to the jokes of The Residents producing better pop music than pop musicians, to enigmatic rappers making structurally similar songs to The Residents’ ultimate pop parody album for the purpose of sincere lyrical expression!