Wormwood: Curious Stories From The Bible is an album by The Residents, released October 13th 1998 through Euro Ralph and East Side Digital. In Wormwood, The Residents interpret a number of often violent or disturbing tales from the Bible (primarily the Old Testament).
The group supported the release of Wormwood with a series of live performances elaborating upon the concept, featuring additional songs not heard on the album. A live-in-the-studio recording of radically re-arranged Wormwood tracks, Roadworms: The Berlin Sessions, followed in 2000.
History and concept
"The third angel blew his trumpet; and a great star fell from the sky flaming like a torch; and it fell on a third of the rivers and springs. The name of the star was Wormwood."
Wormwood: Curious Stories From The Bible was first announced on January 23rd 1998 as The Residents' first traditional concept album project since Freak Show in 1991 (with the group having spent the intervening years exploring the medium of CD-ROM). It was recorded throughout the spring of 1998, and in June it was announced that the album would be completed by July 14th.
For Wormwood, The Residents decided to explore the dark side of Christian Bible, with songs based on twenty of its most violent and disturbing tales. In the press release announcing the project, Uncle Willie explained that the group were not interested in criticizing or attacking the Bible, but rather in reminding listeners that the Bible is not all about uplifting morality.
The album is focused primarily on the Old Testament, with a short-tempered and vindictive God visiting all sorts of unpleasantness on the Israelites and their neighbors. Only three tracks, "How to Get a Head", "Judas Saves" and "Revelation", represent stories from the New Testament. Another, "Jesus Saves", was demoed but ultimately left off the final release.
For the album The Residents used what had become their regular team of collaborators, vocalists Laurie Amat, Diana Alden and Molly Harvey as well asRichard Marriott who had played brass and woodwinds on God In Three Persons beforehand. New members of the team include instrumentalist Carla Fabrizio and package designer Karin Wittich. Guest musicians on the album include 'Pavers', who played with The Residents live at the Disfigured Night show, Wayne Doba, who portrayed 'Tex' at the Freak Show live shows, and the mysterious 'Linda Goldstein'.
Production was handled by their regular Cryptic Corporation, with executive production by David R. Fulmer. The artwork was created by Poor Know Graphics, with the disc being designed by Leigh Barbier.
In a first for The Residents, special preview copies of Wormwood were sent to twelve fans in cities across the US, Canada, and Europe. Each of these fans held a listening party in their city to celebrate the release. The album was also promoted with the release of a limited three track maxi-single, I Hate Heaven, which included three tracks from the album. The album was re-leased for the first time in 2015 by MVD audio.
A 5-6 disc box set featuring original unreleased demos is currently being compiled by Cherry Red Records, MVD audio and New Ralph Too. The labels plan to release the set as part of the ongoing Residents pREServed series in November of 2021.
In October of 1998 Wormwood became the subject of The Residents' second series of Halloween concerts at The Fillmore in San Francisco. This live show toured the USA in April of 1999 and Europe in later that same year. The show an expanded and re-arranged version of the album. All new pieces such as Welcome To Wormwood, David's Dick, Attitude Is Everything, Abraham and Un-American Band were composed for the show.
The group would follow the Wormwood tour with the release of Roadworms: The Berlin Sessions in 2000. Roadworms includes alternative, live-in-the-studio versions of tracks from Wormwood, which had been rearranged and further developed as they were played live by the group throughout the tour.
Cancelled special edition
Some years after the release of Wormwood, The Residents a "special edition" of the album was announced, to be released within the foreseeable future. This edition had been a pet project of Hardy Fox, who had created a prototype which featured a number of demos replacing the final studio versions, as he felt the production on the finished version of Wormwood sounded "overworked", and inferior to the earlier demos. As a result, this "special edition" was planned to be shorter than the original release.
The special edition was eventually cancelled on the basis that such a release would confuse people, and because Wormwood by this point was "pretty old" and the group did not think it was worth resurrecting at that time.
The 'Wormwood' era (1998-2001)
Wormwood is notable for introducing core collaborator Carla Fabrizio, and package designer Karin Wittich. Fabrizio is credited on the album as "assistant to The Residents", and toured the album along with a number of essential figures, including newcomer Nolan Cook.
Following the corresponding tour, Wormwood was subject to a live-in-the-studio re-recording, based on the arrangements of the songs which had developed over the course of the tour. This reworked version of Wormwood was released as Roadworms: The Berlin Sessions, and also includes newly-written material not featured on the early album.
The key difference between Wormwood and Roadworms is that the latter makes use of a live band. Much of the original album was composed and played back using MIDI software, but Roadworms takes more of a band-in-a-studio approach and features acoustic drums, which had not been heard on a Residents release since Commercial Album in 1980.
Later performances (2005-2017)
Throughout the Randy, Chuck & Bob trilogy of tours, Wormwood and its themes were heavily represented. On the Talking Light tour, there was "They Are The Meat"; on The Wonder of Weird, "Hanging By His Hair" and "Bathsheba Bathes", and on the original leg of Shadowland a whole segment was dedicated to Wormwood, featuring "They Are The Meat" and "Judas Saves".
Charles Bobuck's 2017 Residents tribute album Bobuck Plays The Residents included two Wormwood tunes, "Kill Him!" and "I Hate Heaven". On The Residents' In Between Dreams tour in the same year, "God's Magic Finger" was performed during the first handful of performances, before being cut from the set list.
- In The Beginning (2:54)
- Firefall (3:35)
- They Are The Meat (2:42)
- Melancholy Clumps (1:44)
- How to Get a Head (4:08)
- Cain and Abel (3:38)
- Mr. Misery (2:21)
- Tent Peg in the Temple (2:56)
- God's Magic Finger (2:50)
- Spilling the Seed (2:47)
- Dinah and the Unclean Skin (3:15)
- Bathsheba Bathes (2:53)
- Bridegroom of Blood (5:00)
- Hanging By His Hair (2:37)
- The Seven Ugly Cows (2:37)
- Burn Baby Burn (3:02)
- KILL HIM! (2:41)
- I Hate Heaven (2:52)
- Judas Saves (3:58)
- Revelation (5:37)
The word Bible means "book". In about 100 C.E. Christian scholars collected writings about the prophet, Jesus of Nazareth. Selecting certain texts, eliminating others, they canonized what is now the New Testament. This they combined with the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, to give a historical and philosophical context for their new teaching.
While the Old Testament introduces us to the Israelite God, YHWH, as a dark figure bringing death whenever he appears, Jesus revolutionized the concept of God as a father figure.
All Bibles are translations of translations of no longer existing original writings and, unavoidably, reflect the politics and religious prejudices of the organization paying the cost of the translation.
Today, many narrow-minded people wield the Bible as some sort of razor with which to slash their enemies. Allowing those people to decide what is important in the Bible is dangerous to the freedom of individual thought. Though some of the Bible is abysmal and boring, much of it is entertaining and important reading.
The Residents have tackled this book in all its complexity without the responsibility of the scholar. Though many months have gone into research, the intent of the music and lyrics remain within the realm of the inspired poet.
The stories and ideas represented here are definitely in the Bible. The desire is to neither vilify nor sanctify the book, but to allow it to be humanized. For the Bible to be looked upon as spiritually uplifting is good and useful, but that view overlooks the Bible's abundant images of plague, torture and cruelty. It is this dichotomy that gives balance and substance to the book. Without both, the dark and the light, there is no measure of either, only the bland reassurances that pass for organized religion today.
- Composed, Arranged & Performed By: The Residents
- Assistant to The Residents: Carla Fabrizio
- Producer: The Cryptic Corporation
- Executive Producer: David R. Fulmer
- Additional Instrumentalists: Carla Fabrizio, Richard Marriott and Pavers
- Additional Singers: Diana Alden, Laurie Amat, Wayne Doba, Carla Fabrizio, Linda Goldstein, Molly Harvey and The Mystery Dude.
- Cover Art / Photo of The Residents: Poor No Graphics
- Package Design: Karin Wittich and 4=1
- Illustrations: Leigh Barbier
|1998||East Side Digital||US|
- I Hate Heaven
- Roadworms: The Berlin Sessions
- Wormwood Live
- Wormwood Live 1999
- In Between Screams
- Nolan Cook
Buy Or Die!
- Wormwood at MVDShop (US)
- "New Stuff!", RZWeb, January 23rd 1998 (via archive.org)
- "New Stuff!", RZWeb, June 11th 1998 (via archive.org)
- "It will be 5CD or 6CD I think, including demos, possibly two generations of those even. Almost done, we're just waiting to hear the final running order. There'll be a 2LP set too, as far as I know. ETA November(ish)". - Richard 'Cherry Red' Anderson, June 19th, 2021
- Hardy Fox, "Ask Hardy shit", Hacienda Bridge no. 7, January 1st 2017