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The Residents - Wormwood:  Curious Stories From the Bible CD (album) cover


The Residents



3.71 | 36 ratings

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4 stars Released by The Residents during their MIDI years, this one is another strange one, but with a very interesting concept. They decide to explore 18 of some of the strangest Bible stories in the big black book. These are the stories that you didn't hear about in Sunday School, or in any religious school for that manner. They don't try to expand on them, they instead bring them to life in song, singing in first person. It's best to follow along with lyrics so that you understand them best.

The tracks are interesting, and there is some variety here even though the music is all computerized or electronic. The vocal duties are shared with the usual Residents' vocalist and other guest vocalists to give the music the feeling of characterization. This makes perfect sense to bring meaning to the songs. The concept is intriguing and the topics of the songs are controversial considering the source material, but they are topics that Christians like to ignore, or pass by quickly when reading the Bible. In my opinion, we would understand a lot more if we really understood the meaning of these strange events. Since the music itself sounds quite similar throughout, I want to concentrate on the song topics, because that is what makes this album so great and interesting. I will mention a few things about the music as it stands out in the tracks too.

The first track 'In the Beginning' is more of an instrumental introduction, though listening to it, I don't really understand what other function it serves other than a prelude to the entire craziness and I'm sure in their shows, they use it quite effectively. 'Firefall' is the story of Lot, but not just the pillar of salt story. No, that would be too normal. This is the story of how Lot invites two angels into his home and how the townspeople find out about it and pester Lot to let them rape the angels. Lot instead offers up his daughters to appease the crowd. God rains fire from the sky and Lot and his family escape and, well you know what happens to his wife next.

'They are the Meat' is about Ezekiel's violent visions. The vocal melody is very repetitive, but the instrumental part is interesting enough. 'Melancholy Clumps' is about Noah building the ark and how it will be 'the home of melancholy clumps of bone'. Interesting choice of words. Treated vocals and other strange sounds. 'How to Get a Head' is about Salome dancing in order to get anything she wishes and requests John the Baptists head. This is sung by a female vocalist and is quite morbid, but sounds kind of cheery what with snapping fingers going along with the beat. The organ at the end gives it the church-y but scary sound. 'Cain and Abel' is of course a descriptive account of how Cain felt after murdering his brother. This one is slow and pensive.

'Mr. Misery' is about Job who as most know was the poor, tortured man that God gave the Devil free reign to agonize. The tune is a bit upbeat for such a poor man. I guess this reflect his attitude to always be righteous no matter what happened to him. 'Tent Peg in the Temple' is about a woman who took in a poor man who was her enemy in battle, he was just trying to find some dry clothes, he ended up in her bed and she killed him with a tent peg driven through his temple. Ouch. This one is also a female vocalist. 'God's Magic Finger' is about the King of Babylon asking David to interpret a message written on his wall by a floating hand. The message said that the king's days were numbered. This one is a little annoying because the chorus is repeated too many times.

'Spilling the Seed' is about Onan who was supposed to marry his brother's widow. He was to impregnate her but instead pulls out, and because he disobeyed God, he was struck dead. This one is a simple melody with a catchy rhythm until the sad ending. 'Dinah and the Unclean Skin' is a disgusting Biblical story about how, after the rape of Dinah, an agreement is made between two warring sides that all the men of a village should be circumcised and while they were in bed recovering, they were killed by their opponents. 'Bathsheba Bathes' is about David being tempted by watching Bathsheba bathe on the roof (the pervert) and how his jealousy influences him to send her husband to the front line of the army where he is killed. The song is sparse with chime like sounds. The voice singing David's part is the typical Resident's vocal but is mostly subdued almost a whisper, but the narrator is a strange obscure voice that has been treated.

'Bridegroom of Blood' is a very strange account of Moses and his wife. She circumcises her baby son wipes the blood on Moses' feet calling him her bridegroom of blood. If this is disturbing, remember it's right from the bible and the references are in the program notes for each of these stories. A loop of a crying child only makes this one more chilling. Vocals are shared between female and male vocalists as represented by the characters. This one is very graphic and disturbing to say the least. 'Hanging By His Hair' is about David's son who during a rebellion against his father gets his hair stuck in a tree. He is then killed by David's general. This one is more dramatic as far as the music goes and utilizes dynamics better than most of the songs on this album.

'Seven Ugly Cows' is about a dream interpreted by Joseph about 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine. This is another sparse song. 'Burn Baby Burn' is the story about sacrificing a family member that doesn't end as well as the Abraham/Isaac story. Jephthah returns from war with the oath that he would sacrifice whatever came out to greet him first, he thought it would be an animal, but it is his daughter, whom he promptly sacrifices. This one has a reggae feel to it, of course all done with MIDI. 'KILL HIM' is about the test of Abraham and Isaac as mentioned just before, but it details animal sacrifices as per instructions in the scriptures. This one is sung as if Abraham is mentally disturbed. 'I Hate Heaven' is based on The Song of Solomon as from the lover's point of view. This music sounds almost like it was inspired by early 60s rock n roll girl groups. The last story is 'Judas Saves' as Judas contemplates his role in salvation because it is necessary for him to betray Christ in order for him to die for mankind's sins. 'Now it is so clear/He must appear/To be betrayed/So we can be saved'. Interesting concept. The last track is the outro instrumental called 'Revelation'. Again, this is added for purposes of the shows that were given to promote this material.

Overall, there are places where things can get kind of stale because of the sameness of the instrumental. Since this album was produced during the time when The Resident's relied way too much on MIDI programming, they do get that quality. Where this album excels in The Resident's huge discography is in the orchestration (even though if it were orchestrated with real instruments would have been much much better), and the concept. This album, because of those things, is a very strong album. It is not for everyone, especially those that are offended easily or with weak stomachs, but it is true that all of this is in The Bible. The Resident's, being the type of eyeballs that they are, thought this was perfect material for them, and it was probably the best they would do during this period of their recording history. This album definitely deserves a 4 star rating for the concept and orchestration and not for the presentation of the orchestration itself. That's why it is 4 stars and not 5.

Now I have to cut this review short at this point as the lightning outside is getting really close....I'm not joking.

TCat | 4/5 |


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