Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Residents – Triple Trouble Soundtrack

If you think it’d take a challenging film-maker to employ The Residents to produce the soundtrack, you’d be correct – the film in question, ‘Triple Trouble’, is made by the band themselves. The almost mythical film, ‘Vileness Fats’ was conceived 50 years ago and never quite reached the finishing line. Attempts over the last few years to use some of the filmed footage were abandoned, largely as the purposely(ish) crude filming techniques would have clashed badly with any modern additions. Instead, some of the themes from the film were reused, expanded upon and pointed in a direction which keeps everything perfectly modern yet entirely in The Residents world of old. ‘Vileness Fats’ had a rather grotty feel to it – scratchy black and white imagery which felt like they’d been rescued from the rushes of experimental early 20th century film pioneers. It was angular and cold; confusing and disorientating. Surprisingly, ‘Triple Trouble’ is narratively coherant and its soundtrack one of the most accessible collections of music the band has ever released.

“Priest, Plumber, God…Fungus”

‘Vileness Fats’ received a significant script overhaul, though the protagonist – a priest and son of the ex-lead singer of the band becoming obsessed with the oddness of the world around him, remained. With the director of the celebrated documentary on The Residents (‘The Theory of Obscurity’ and Don Hardy, respectively) onboard, ‘Double Trouble’ was coming together very nicely until the pandemic stopped both production and the investment taps required to make the project a reality. This brought about another rewrite – yes, ‘Triple Trouble’, and back in the hands of Homer Flynn as director. With events pitched in a more futuristic environment and with the priest having now lost his faith and retrained as a plumber, the synopsis sees Randall “Junior” Rose emotionally battered by both a divorce and the death of his mother and becoming increasingly obsessed with a white fungus which is blocking drains around the city. With only the company of an AI drone, Cherry and the ghost of his rockstar father fuelling his increasing conspiracy theories as to where the ‘white flu’ is coming from, Junior decends into drink and extreme paranoia until a knock at the door confirms his darkest fears.

With the film really pushing out on the visual-front, taking a huge influence from early noir, Lynch and Mallick, the soundtrack has a difficult decision to make – match it stroke for stroke or take something of a backseat? All things considered, it’s remarkably restrained overall and behaves far more like a conventional soundtrack than you may expect. Seven suites of music guide you through Junior’s adventures, puntuated by dialogue from the film and spoken word passages. With the best will in the world, you wouldn’t be able to picture the film from this without having seen the film itself, though there’s no doubt that it’s a more immersive experience than some of the band’s albums. It’s worth noting that the soundtrack is credited to both The Residents and Eric Drew Feldman, an indication, perhaps, of how vital to the band he has becomes since Hardy Fox’s death.

It feels a little inappropriate to comment on individual tracks – for one thing, like soundtracks from the 70s and 80s in particular, the cues do rather give away spoilers like they’re going out of fashion. There are recurrent motifs and the odd theme which will resonate with hardcore fans, which is fair enough, this would be a particularly odd place to start your Residents journey. It would be wrong to say they’re mellowing in their autumn years but there’s a overwhelming sense of melancholy and emptiness in these new works which goes beyond simply scoring what is seen in the film. Maybe there really are human beings underneath the eyeballs after all.

Daz Lawrence 

Packaged beautifully in a hardback book-style format from Cherry Red here

….there are also some absurdly limited (though stunning) vinyl editions here

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