Many listeners got their first taste of the Residents on the "Dr. Demento" radio program back in late 1979 or 1980. The song was "The Laughing Song" and I never forgot how wonderfully bizarre it was.
Louisiana swamp rats who relocated to San Francisco (a good choice, given the musical tolerance the Bay Area has boasted over the years) and created a stir with never revealing their identities and making head size eyeballs famous, the Residents specialized in proto-synth programming that predated Devo and just about every cutting edge artist, with the possible exception of Can, the German experimental legends. While comedy is the main focal point of these twisted genius' work, they also experiment with sounds and textures never before attempted or replicated. In fact, "Eskimo", their biggest selling album, is somewhat serious, a five part soundscape that defies description in print.
For those not quite ready to take the plunge with "Eskimo", "The Commercial Album" is a good starting point as each selection is exactly one minute long, making up forty snippets of amazing hooks, noises, and even the occasional pretty tune. Fans of electronic music like NIN, meet your roots. Reznor could never have created his work without these pioneers. As so often is the case, some of the world's most obscure artists also act as the most influential. Laugh along, but don't forget the new ground that is constantly being broken as you listen to "The Commercial Album". Also, pick up "Duck Stab/Buster & Glen", the other Residents' masterwork.