George and James (1984)

The first of the American Composer Series, a set of recordings that was to cover the works of "not less than twenty composers" by the end of the century. Well the project was one-tenth achieved at least for it was abandoned after two patchily excellent albums, as the rise of the CD made the one-composer-on-each-side concept a tad meaningless. Denying any gap between so-called high and so-called low or popular culture like the postmodern guys they are, the Residents see nothing unusual about pairing George Gershin and James Brown, or Hank Williams and Philip Sousa.

The Gershin side is instrumental, and sounds like a bunch of Martians attempting to demonstrate what big band music sounds like on returning to their planet and getting it terribly wrong. Rhapsody In Blue is a pulsating electronic jazz mothership rising majestically into space, I Got Rhythm features several drum machines out of time with each other (of course), and Summertime is sad and slightly sinister. The sleeve mentions Gershin's death from a brain tumour in 1937. I don't know whether the decaying, fragmented music that finishes the George side is meant to refers to that sad fact, just my interpretation.

The James side is a stab at the Live At The Apollo, complete with screaming audience (pinched from the Mole Show), and even the brass fanfares of the Famous Flames. The singing Resident sounds like (and I quote an NME album review here) "Frankenstein's monster on nembutal" as he lumbers through the set getting hilariously over-sentimental.