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Ghost Canyon

Title - Wormwood Box: Curious Stories From The Bible
Artist - The Residents

For those unaware, as the second Millennium AD drew to a close, The Residents began to take stock on a couple of thousand years of reasonably fruitful human endeavor.

One text, they felt, had inescapably set the tone and dominated the narrative throughout the Western world for most of that period, often clouding the view as they looked back.

Sure enough, The Bible, Testaments Old and New, seemed like fertile ground for a confused, anonymous band approaching their fourth decade.

Throughout 1998 and 1999, The Residents set about writing, recording and extensively touring a set of songs based around some of the more curious, unsettling and downright messed up stories they found upon revisiting their old Sunday School Bibles, and present here the results of those industrious years.

Complete with demos and sketches, two full live recordings, a live-in-the- studio reworking and the usual assorted ephemera plus later live recordings, the Wormwood Box Ė Curious Stories From The Bible, pREServed Edition (9CD) showcases a project the band still think of very fondly, and have often revisited.

Join us and marvel as the Eyeball Oddballs somehow cram murder, rape, incest, vengeance, slaughter and, erm, circumcision into a radio friendly pop format! Or so it says here!

Remastered, expanded, and pREServed for future generations, this is the latest in a series of archival Residentsí re-issues that will continue throughout 2022 as the band celebrate their 50th Anniversary.

Look out for forthcoming deluxe vinyl re-issues of the classic 1970s albums, a brand new OST recording for a forthcoming film and further pREServed releases as the year unfolds.

The Residents will also be touring extensively so why not go keep them company one evening when they come to your town.

CD 1: Wormwood
1. In The Beginning
2. Fire Fall
3. They Are The Meat
4. Melancholy Clumps
5. How To Get A Head
6. Cain And Abel
7. Mr Misery
8. Tent Peg In The Temple
9. Godís Magic Finger
10. Spilling The Seed
11. Dinah And The Unclean Skin
12. Bathsheba Bathes
13. Bridegroom Of Blood
14. Hanging By His Hair
15. The Seven Ugly Cows
16. Burn Baby Burn
18. I Hate Heaven
19. Judas Saves
20. Revelation

Like the Residentsí 1988 album God in Three Persons, which is formally an opera of the new narrative type with lots of rhythmic speaking and chorus responses somewhat in the style of the classic Southern talking blues, this wonderful piece in 20 parts is also a commentary on the more bizarre imagery and smarmy, truly uneasy emotions from the Bible.

While being full of irony and postmodernism, it also reaches for that deep kind of soul-shaking experience that is the true wellspring of religious awe before the lawgivers arrive in town.

Just in case you are unaware of what to expect, even after all these years, allow me to enlighten you somewhat: In the Beginning opens with a terrifying animalistic roar, thunder crashes, weird electronics, unresolved chords, and your general universal chaos.

Late-night desert sounds and Middle Eastern scales gradually take over. Fire Fall features Lot as an old man recalling the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, with squeaking synth and thick, string-like electronics (Fire fell from the sky, tears fell from my eyes).

They Are the Meat describes the odd visions experienced by Ezekiel as he is allowed to eat only bread and must sleep on his side for 13 months. And, amongst other, How to Get a Head depicts heavily punctuated music to relate Salomeís psychotic obsessions with John the Baptistís severed head.

And so forth. Youíre welcome!

CD 2: Early Worms
1. Waterfall
2. Squid
3. Sleepy Time
4. SilverShield
5. Sausage City
6. Sassy Bassy
7. Racking
8. Possum
9. Pickle
10. NutraSweet
11. Movie
12. Michael
13. Log Dam
14. Indo
15. Humer
16. France
17. Earth Man
18. Dooky Town
19. Choppy
20. Chihuahua
21. Cabbage
22. Beta
23. Beach
24. Anything
25. All Flash
26. Adenoids

(All tracks previously unreleased)

CD 3: Early Worms II
1. In The Beginning Sketch
2. SKull2 Un-American Band
3. SkullBiz Sketch
4. Just A Whore (SkullBiz)
5. HeadSketch
6. Job Meets The Monsters
7. Abe Medley Sketch
8 .King Of Kings Sketch
9. King Of Kings (Francis)
10. Jesus Saves (Version 1)
11. Jesus Saves (Version 2)

(All tracks previously unreleased)

This third box set in the groupís comprehensive pREServed series of expanded reissues (following Mole Box in 2019 and Cube-E Box in 2020), also includes two discs of the early Residents finding their collective stage feet and vocal entities.

An interesting catalog of early, and previosuly unreleased stuff is provided here for the fans, combining stand alone bits, sketches, and different versions of well known items too, which all come together to showcase an art-form band growing with confidence with each and every word spoken.

Chock full of weird and wonderful tracks from the enigmatic art collective, to my mind and ear, of course, they include bouts of generally quite upbeat, notably wacky instrumentation aplenty, which obviously then makes for a strange juxtaposition with its subject matter for the listener.

Nonetheless, and as one should fully expect, there are a fair amount of catchy moments on these early captures, all brought forth with an infectious vocal phrasing that is simply bound to stick in your head !

CD 4: Wormwood At The Fillmore 1998 (Act I)
1. Mr Skull Superstar
2. In the Beginning
4. How to Get A Head
5. Hanging By His Hair
6. Mr Misery
7. Tent Peg in the Temple
8. Godís Magic Finger
9. Dinah And The Unclean Skin
10. Cain and Abel
11. Burn Baby Burn
12. Fire Fall

(All tracks previously unreleased)

CD 5: Wormwood At The Fillmore 1998 (Act II)
1. The Seven Ugly Cows
2. Melancholy Lumps
3. Bathsheba Bathes
4. Bridegroom Of Blood
5. They Are The Meat
6. I Hate Heaven
7. Judas Saves
8. Revelation
9. Smelly Tongues
10. Moisture
11. Picnic Boy
12. Walter Westinghouse

(All tracks previously unreleased)

A quite sonically magnificent, and also previously unreleased show in two wondrous acts from 1998, again, for my money, and having now listened to the recordings twice through (back-to-back), the music is simply symphonic live; and yet still just as lovingly twisted and self-indulgent as you could ever have hoped it to be.

It is also one of the tightest live shows I think they performed, the first act alone bringing forth such influentially mesmerizing tracks as Fire Fall, Mr. Misery, Burn Baby Burn and Godís Magic Finger.

Combined with the second act, and thus now taken as a whole, these are classics along the lines of The Aging Musician or Lottie the Human Log, to me, and the second disc also keeps the peddle to the absurd metal of art-rock with tracks such as The Seven Ugly Cows, Melancholy Lumps, They Are The Meat, and of course, both Smelly Tongues and the set closer Walter Westinghouse.

CD 6: Roadworms
1. Un-American Band
2. How To Get A Head (Road)
3. Hanging By His Hair (Road)
4. Godís Magic Finger (Road)
5. Tent Peg In The Temple (Road)
6. Fire Fall (Road)
7. Cain And Abel (Road)
8. Dinah And The Unclean Skin (Road)
9. Abraham (Road)
10. Burn Baby Burn (Road)
11. Judas Saves (Road)

While many do not consider Roadworms to be a proper album, it most definitely is a strong enough work to stand apart from Wormwood, the studio album that spawned this later live session, as we now know.

Performed after The Residents had been on tour for some time, the songs contained on Roadworms are, for the most part, drastically reworked from the original Wormwood versions.

What is particularly interesting is the predominance of electric guitar, which adds an urgent, ragged texture to the music. The vocalizations of Mr. Skull and Molly Harvey are right on note and far more expressive than on the studio versions.

And, for my money, a few of the standout tracks are Hanging by his Hair, Burn Baby Burn, and Abraham. I mean, sh*t, these alone are worth the purchase of the Box-Set itself!

CD 7: Wormwood: Live In Europe 1999 (Act I)
1. In The Beginning
2. Welcome To Wormwood
3. Mr Skullís Rave 1
4. How To Get A Head
5. Mr Misery
6. Tent Peg In The Temple
7. Mr Skullís Rave 2
8. Godís Magic Finger
9. Dinah And The Unclean Skin
10. Cain And Abel
11. Mr Skullís Rave 3
12. Burn Baby Burn
13. Fire Fall

CD 8: Wormwood: Live In Europe 1999 (Act II)
1. King Of Kings
2. Skull Prayer
3. Mr Skullís Rave 4
4. Abraham
5. Bridegroom Of Blood
6. Mr Skullís Rave 5
7. David
8. Judas Saves 9. Old Time Religion
10. Jesus Loves Me

Now, for my money, this live recording, as opposed to the aforementioned Wormwood At The Fillmore 1998, brings a new dimension to the told tale they were preaching, with enhanced storytelling and some significant creative changes in the music.

Going further out in the live version they throw a hodgepodge of traditional hymns, Sunday school rhymes, and even a wee bit of Jesus Christ Superstar into the mix, as well as reworking most of the tracks into a more ominous, and much more resonant, timbre.

Highlights for me include Burn Baby Burn, sung by Molly Harvey, in a slow dirge like version that makes you feel the terror and remorse of being burned alive (unlike the original, which had a much more upbeat, almost catchy refrain), Fire Fall in which the singing Resident makes Lotís struggle at Sodom and Gomorrah sound heart-wrenching, yet with a tinge of regret.

It also features the hysterical (as in insane, not funny) rants of Mr. Skull as he prefaces the tales, bringing out the major themes, so someone not familiar with the storyline can follow.

Shortcomings would be some of the sound quality, especially in the dialogue of Mr. Skull which is muffled at times through his mask, but lest that distract us from what is, and what always will be, a simply magnificent live performance captured of a band at their, some might say, peak of art-rock dominance.

CD 9: Woodworms
1. In Between Screams
2. Nober
3. Bridegroom Of Blood (SF, 2001)
4. Burn Baby Burn (SF, 2001)
5. They Are The Meat/Mr Misery (Australia, 2005)
6. Burn Baby Burn (Australia, 2005)
7. They Are The Meat (Oslo, 2011)
8. Hanging By His Hair (Munich, 2013)
9. Bathsheba Bathes (Munich, 2013)
10. They Are The Meat (NYC, 2014)
11. Judas Saves (Laussanne, 2014)

(Tracks 7-11 previously unreleased)

This 9CD Box-Set closes on Woodworms, which features 11 tracks, the last five previously unreleased and just ripe for our ears to cock a listen to.

As we all know, throughout the groupís existence, the individual members have ostensibly attempted to work anonymously, preferring to have attention focused on their art.

But here on this last disc, they most certainly allow their live stage show music to take the lead, with stand out tracks to me the riveting duo of They Are The Meat/Mr Misery and Burn Baby Burn from Australia, 2005 and the pairing of unreleased tracks from Germany, Hanging By His Hair and Bathsheba Bathes (Munich, 2013).

Well known for surrealistic lyrics and sound, with a disregard for conventional music composition, The Residents are truly found to be on top form here in these latter years live recordings and thus these last recordings round out this Box-Set perfectly. Just magnificently, I might add!

Official 9CD Purchase Link