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The Commercial Album

Rev. Syung Myung Me: This was the album that caused the critical backlash – just because, well, it seems folks don't like it if a group gets TOO critically acclaimed. It's actually a very good album – perhaps a little repetitive with some of the musical themes – and one of my favorites. This is another I could see someone starting with.

The idea behind it is that pop music is basically a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-chorus, and the themes of the lyrics are usually pretty repetitive as well, so you could just cut the fat out of a standard 3 minute pop song and have a 1 minute song that gets in, says what it has to say, and gets out. So, the Residents recorded their own Top 40, 20 on each side, and released it as the Commercial Album (punning on both the Commercial Nature of pop music and the fact that, at the time, most radio spots were 1 minute long (now most are 30 seconds, but you still have some minute-long ones). In fact, to promote this album, the Residents bought 40 one-minute spots on KROQ, which prompted an article about payola in Billboard magazine.

In 2004, they put out a DVD of a bunch of videos (including the original four One Minute Movies, which are also on display at MoMA) made by the Residents and other people for each of the songs, including the two songs only released on the Commercial Single. Not all of the videos are great (I can't stand the three or so by the guy who just taped his baby daughter), but some of them are outstanding, and the navigation is both fun and maddening (though the Residents were polite enough to include an easy navigation menu as well).