Saturday, November 19, 2011

RENALDO & THE LOAF - Songs for Swinging Larvae lp

Hard to write about something so near and dear to my heart. Words don't fail me as much as trying to pare down the sheer amount of love I could gush about this LP. How do you succinctly write a couple paragraphs about something that changed your parameters about what music was (and wasn't)? (sniff, sniff) DAMMIT! I love you Renaldo and the Loaf.................
I stumbled upon Renaldo and the Loaf (hereafter refered to as RatL) by way of a little set of videos called "The 1 minute movies" released by the RESIDENTS. I was already oddly fascinated by the Residents brand of un-music and eager to lap up anything they, or their record label, RALPH records put out. A friend of a friend made a trip to visit his sister at Parsons (sniffy art school) in NYC and brought back a vhs tape full of what became my obsession with this weird music for years to come. Within the group of losers and outcasts I hung out with at school, this video had become legend, like that of some mythologized snuff film, before most of us ever got a chance to see it. The owner of the said tape, again, a friend of a friend, wasn't willing to show just anyone the video. It got to be built up like he had captured a murder or images of Satan on that tape and not just anyone could see it. Finally, after some convincing, and the pledge to never tell anyone where we'd seen it, the video was played after school one day.

ERASERHEAD was the first thing on the tape and although creepy, I thought at the time, it was about an hour too long. Next were 2 short films made by some students at Parsons, both pretty forgettable (which I did). The last things on the tape were the earlier mentioned, 1 minute movies, by the Residents. WOAH, I was completely blown away. Like I said, I was already a fan, but getting to see moving images of these weirdos made quite an impression. Up to that point, I had only my young, very un-expanded brain to conjure up my own images of what the Residents were. Other than the music, and arresting graphics on their records, not much was know, including the identities, of the "people" that made this strange noise. But, enough about the "Eye Ball Guys" as my son calls them, I'll save my Doctoral thesis on them for another post.


One of the long video montages was titled Renaldo and the Loaf "songs for swinging larvae". I thought maybe this was a Residents"joke" band or the like, as I had never heard of them. For the next 5 minutes and 33 seconds, I was pinned to my chair with the genuinely disturbing images that flashed across the screen. I can honestly say that NOTHING ever made me feel that unsettled before. That video, which I later learned was actually 3 separate songs, was seething with imagery and ideas that society deemed taboo. Check em' out for yourself and prepare to be creeped. The music captured the precise feeling and look of the video (or vice-versa) and I was dumbfounded to find out who Renaldo and the Loaf were.

Two of the songs, along with several others, ended up being released by Ralph records as Songs for Swinging Larvae by the band Renaldo and the Loaf. I was pretty happy to see and actually hold a copy of this, fearing the videos I had seen were some elaborate hoax perpetuated by the Residents. Nope, RatL were actually a real band, from the U.K. and here was their debut LP. The first thing about this LP that smacked me in the face was the deranged art on the cover. Handsome chap courting the sexy insect lady? What the....... I couldn't wait to play this thing, as the artwork and anticipation were killing me. As soon as I could get it on the turntable, I did, and boy was I FLOORED!! Two songs from the video were there, but there was so much more. The songs oozed and squeaked out of my speakers, the next one weirder than the last. I sat, again, dumbfounded by what I was hearing. Even though the Residents had prepared my ears for disparate sounds of the avant garde, this was like hearing an inanimate object speak.These were the sounds of being held captive by a race of miniature people, breathing helium and entertaining you by tapping, tinkling, scraping any object within reach. These sounds were as exhilarating as they were ominous and I was hooked. Were these sounds, indeed, made by normal human being like you and I?

In the pre-internet days, it was sometimes hard to find out about your favorite artists, especially those who were purposely mysterious and this pretty much summed up everything on Ralph records. If you got on their mailing list though, they sent you propaganda about the stuff they were releasing. This was the entry from the spring 1981 catalog about the release of Songs for Swing Larvae: No synthesizers, no political stance, no great philosophies, no created images, just normal, inquisitive people who delve into their own world for inspiration and diversion. This is an album of primitive modernism, energetic, obnoxious noises, manic, high-pitched vocals, and sweet brilliance. Songs for Swinging Larvae is startling. Though if you know anything about Ralph at all, you're liable to realize right of the bat why Renaldo and the Loaf fits into the Ralph family: they're not afraid to be attached to the future. Still. no great amounts of information contained in that, but at least some light had been shed. I came to terms with simply enjoying this LP without knowing much about the band. It was only years later, through a couple of short zine interviews, that I knew anything at all bout these guys. Now in the Google age, I've found out every bit of minutia surrounding these fellows that I could ever possibly want to know.

Doesn't change anything though.....I still feel the same simultaneous pleasure and dread when listening to this as did the first time the secretive video tape was played all those years ago. Looking back, now I understand why the owner of the video tape was so reluctant to show just anyone what it contained. Even now, with our over-stimulated, over-technologized appetite for more, these videos are still pretty risky and taboo.......

Boom Boom Crash Crash

1 comment:

mrsneff said...

Lots more on Renaldo and the Loaf and related music, including free downloads here -
mrsneff.wordpress.com