Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Residents
Not Available

Released 1978 on Ralph Records
Reviewed by Usiim Caan, 20/10/2001ce

This was supposedly the Residents second album. They didn't release it until they had forgotten about its existence. Like all that you hear from The Residents, this must be taken with a mountain of salt.
Though most of The Residents albums have moments of brilliance, Not Available is the most mysterious and amazing of them all.
This seems to be a concept album, yet there is no clear concept.
This album is a modern Dadaist opera, yet it's hard to tell who these characters are and how they relate to one another.
Synthesizers, repetitive drumming and whiney, nasily vocals dominate this album.
The album opens with Edweena. There is a labrynth of sounds and voices that seem to exist in a a sort of musical hall of mirrors.
The drumming seems to be attacking the synthesizers and piano. Everything breaks away and The lead singer Resident's voice pops in, in all of its anti-rock star glory. He seems to be the narrator of this tale.
Then there is constant chanting where things such as "Her open end was known to need a token diamond ring," comes in.
Then out of this insanity pops a beautiful synth and female vocal part. This is probably edweena. She says one of the typical poetic, vague lines which are flooding this album. "Investing space without a place. Confusing grace with outer space." I have no idea what that means but when she sings it I believe it!
Like all the songs on this album, there are different movements and voices which come in and out of the mix.
The next song begins like some early Zappa piece merged with Sun Ra. The frail voice of Edweena's Porkupine which follows her to college has one of the most amazing parts on this album. He sounds like the frantic voice on Captain Beefheart's the Blimp if he was in a rested state. Out of nowhere a menacing keyboard line comes in while different characters emerage and disappear in a mist. The last line in this song will give you chills. "Who is wrong and who is right, and who is left to see? Who is left is just a few, can two be more than...threeeeee." The song ends as the lead Resident's voice disintegrates.
The Ship's A Goin' Down has a terrifying nightmarish begining. Voices randomly come in and out. Some are calm, yet some are angry and insane. The begining confusion turns into the climax of all the characters singing "the ship's a' going down", together.
Never Known Questions brings back an energy and somewhat order to the music. The song chugs along unlike any other song on this album. The end of the song is the porkupine singing an achingly beautiful section that will make you want to run through the streets screaming.
The epilogue starts like Edweena and ends with a young boy's voice, which, like most of the album is hard to understand.
NotAvailable is confusing and startling to listen to. All the lyrics work like Zen poems. There is significance in the fact that these words are so insignificant.
Listening to this album is like being trapped in a dark maze where sounds and voices come in and out. It can be terrifying and beautiful. It is also one of the most rewarding albums and one where I can discover new sounds and new levels to the music that were't apparent before. Some might say that the Residents image diverts from the music but this album proves that they can put their music before their eyeballs.

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