The only failsafe way to truly grasp what The Residents have been up to over the last 45 years would be to immerse oneself in their bizarre, challenging and frequently unfathomable music to the exclusion of everything else. But then you would probably go mad. The next best option is to buy this glorious four-disc retrospective, which is both as illuminating and confounding as anyone could hope.
With tracks drawn from across the eyeball-sporting loonbags’ entire catalogue, and with a generous sprinkling of rarities and unheard material, 80 Aching Orphans reinforces what a unique proposition they have always been.
Although more firmly rooted in avant-garde performance art than anything as mundane as rock’n’roll, The Residents’ music can be enchanting, thrilling and terrifying, often within the same song, and while they’re arguably the ultimate acquired taste, only a few moments veer into impenetrable insanity.
All the band’s best-known tunes are here, from Hello Skinny (which many will know from Primus’s reverential cover) and Kaw-softwareuiphraseguid=“9ac71ada-6891-46bf-9bd0-40717e7ef484”>softwareuiphraseguid=“9ac71ada-6891-46bf-9bd0-40717e7ef484”>SOFTWAREmark” gingersoftwareuiphraseguid=“9ac71ada-6891-46bf-9bd0-40717e7ef484” id=“a9c4c4e7-c643-429c-8566-f25b0d62d5a7”>liga (think Billie Jean gone wrong) to The Angry Angakok from 1979’s ageless masterpiece Eskimo.
The perfect entry point for the uninitiated, these 400 minutes of madness make pretty much everything else seem a bit dull.