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The Residents: Wormwood


The Residents

Album: Wormwood
Label: East Side Digital

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It's hard to imagine a more idiosyncratic, challenging, difficult group of modern musicians than The Residents, whose music doesn't usually consist of songs so much as complex, often unfathomable dramas. It's likewise hard to imagine a more difficult piece of pure literature than the Bible, which is full of some of the oldest, most difficult and unfathomable drama in human history. Wormwood is the Residents' musical take on 20 of the most bizarre and inexplicable biblical stories, so it should come as no surprise that it's nonsensical, disquieting, and disturbing. Frankly, it's downright unpleasant to hear the group's odd electronic orchestrations lurch around in the background while creepy voices interpret the story of Onan, who spilled his seed upon the ground, or Salome, who danced for Herod and was given the severed head of John The Baptist as payment, or Judas, who helped Jesus die for our sins. Still, as with many of The Residents' recordings, it's a seductive and fascinating kind of unpleasantness, and it's hard to keep Wormwood from getting under your skin. This is in part because most of the stories adapted here are from the Old Testament, the harsher and stranger part of the Bible, where a truly jealous and stern YHWH usually shows up for the sole purpose of tormenting and killing his people. But it also has something to do with the fact that The Residents' members have been questioning and exploring the grotesquerie of religion for years, with albums such as Heaven, Hell, and God In Three Persons. In Wormwood, they showcase their talent for exploring the mysteries of faith by going right to the creepy source material, just in time for Halloween.