The Residents - 80 Aching Orphans   [Cherry Red/ MVD Audio - 2017]

80 Aching Orphans tries & completely succeeds in creating a wholly worthy, nicely balanced,far-reaching, and brain- scrambling great anthology of 45 years worth of work from those avant-pop & genre blending mischief makers The Residents. The release comes in the form of a four-disc CD set, which offers up 80 tracks carefully hand-picked by the project & their management team- the Cryptic Corporation.

The set comes packed in a CD-sized hardback book- this features the four discs each in their own slip sleeves. With a glossy fifty page booklet in the middle- this takes in an introduction by Hardy Fox from the Cryptic Corp. And  a good write-up/comment about each & every one of the 80 tracks. A selection of classic & recently un-earthed & created images of the project in both their classic eyeball Ďní top hat look, and other themed looks.  Really itís a classy, well-presented & highly informative set- been one of my favorite bit's of packaging from last year.

As those even vaguely familiar with the work of The Residents work, or any of their forty plus albums- youíll know the band is often highly distinctive, oddly focused, and frankly challenging.  So as you can imagine it must have been hellishly difficult to create a four-disc track listing, that both welcomes in the uninitiated/ passing listener, yet also gives a good & balanced overview of their multifaceted & genre varied output.But thatís what 80 Aching Orphans mangers- through-out each one of the four CDs.

Starting off with the first disc, you do get slightly eased in with less challenging, shorter & more approachable work. Opening the whole thing up we get ďFire(Santa Dog)Ē- this was the first track of the bands first ever official release the EP Santa Dog, which appeared in 1972. The tracks just over one minute & forty minutes featuring a urgent Ďní grooving blend guitar, tight drums & bass Ė that sits somewhere between garage rock & bouncing jazziness. Topped with darting male lead vocals, and male backing vocals repeating the words Santa Dog. As the tracks progresses the oddness slightly drifts in with more focused & strutting guitar work, lines of bell hits, and strange lyrics- with the chant from the lead singer of 'Santa Dog's a Jesus fetus'. As we move through the first disc we go from the dada & swaying avant pop of "Semolina" from 1978ís Duck Stab Ep- with itís seesawing & wonky blend of electric guitar swoons, jaunting & sinisterly marching keyboard work, strange cartoon-like male vocals, and ending horn stabs. Onto surreally jiving electro-freak electronica 'n' surreal theatrical vocals of "Jelly Jack", taken from 1990ís Freakshow- a concept album about the characters working in the freak show. Through to the melancholic lounge pop plod of "Car Thief", with female singer Molly Harvey- hitting both quirky showiness & real emotion- a very difficult balance

The remaining other three discs are equally balanced in both their variation of mood, type of track, and skillful blend of genres. Each disc really is itís own sonic chocolate box of the highest order- showing both the collectives creativity, flare & true originality. There is no real hard & fast chronological flow to the track listing- which means the element of surprise is kept alive for the more seasoned fan, and for the newbie, the whole thing twists & turns wonderfully- pulling you deeper & deeper into the weird & wonderful world of the Residents.

Anthologies, career overviews, and Ďbest of Ďcompilations are often notoriously difficult propositions- they either tend to focus in on the more radio-friendly & single fare forgetting the more interesting & creative album's tracks. Or collect together obscure odds & ends, that have no real interest beyond the hard-core fan, or focus in on a certain facet of artists work- be it a sound, period, or theme. So itís rare you get a balanced, consistent, and wholly rewarding artists collection, but thatís exactly what 80 Aching Orphans- been both a perfect introduction to the world of The Resident,  or a highly listenable & often surprise filled trip down memory line for the long-term fan of the project.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Roger Batty