Only the Residents’ label would deign to sign a duo as deeply weird as Renaldo and the Loaf — in real life two Englishmen named David Janssen and Brian Poole (the latter not of ’60s swingers the Tremeloes). Their bizarre studio-doctored vocals, cut-and-paste arrangements, jerky robot rhythms and alien instrumentation (among the pair’s noisemakers: scalpel, metal comb, hacksaw blade, pickle jar, biscuit tins) suggest that Renaldo and the Loaf was evolved in the Residents’ image. Unfortunately, Songs for Swinging Larvae has all the madness and none of the coherence of the Residents’ nutty concepts, its offbeat wit stampeded instead by rampant disorienting eclecticism. Guaranteed to clear the room of your choice.
Arabic Yodelling is roughly more of the same, a collection of Rube Goldberg home-brewed insanity recorded over a two-year period. A bit less weird for weird’s sake (although hardly in danger of mass appeal), it keeps the blindly whimsical faith the Residents themselves were in the process of outgrowing. Title in Limbo, the group’s joint effort with their American soul brothers, however, is not at all enticing. Streve and Sneff is an American reissue of a pre-Larvae cassette the band had previously distributed on their own.
The general worldwide overuse of electronic sampling instruments may partially explain the delightful alternate-reality sound of The Elbow Is Taboo; then again, perhaps Renaldo and the Loaf have simply advanced past musical infantilism. The songs are indeed songs; they may contain obscure, unexpected sounds and bizarre vocals, but little of it seriously impedes the spare, charming folksiness. “A Street Called Straight,” a most agreeable mélange, employs dulcimer and bouzouki as well as a keyboard; the title track shuffles along on a devolved reggae beat with mandolin as a prime instrument; the vocal-less “Dance for Somnambulists” mixes in glockenspiel and guitars. Crazy, man, crazy!