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The Residents

Wormwood Box

Review by Gary Hill

This is quite an impressive set. It includes nine-CDs and quite a bit of the music here has never been released before. It all starts with the Wormwood album and builds out from there. There are two CDs of demos. A full concert at the Fillmore is spread across two discs. There are plenty of other live rarities, demos and more. I should mention that a lot of this earns parental advisories. It's not true of every song (in fact there are a lot of instrumental pieces), but it's prevalent enough that it makes more sense to do a general warning than it is to mark each song. However you slice it, this box set (with each CD in its own cardboard sleeve and an informative booklet all encased in a cardboard clamshell box) is a particularly high-quality package. I should also mention that I always include The Residents under progressive rock. In the first place, I think they fit there more than anywhere else, but also they certainly quality as art rock and that also goes under prog.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Chapter One:
                              
Wormwood
                                
In The Beginning

Some effects laden ambience brings this in. The cut builds gradually feeling like a cross between King Crimson mellow textures and soundtrack music. It slowly works toward a driving sound that is quite prog oriented and again makes me think of King Crimson to some degree. This instrumental is an intriguing introductory piece.

Fire Fall
The vocals on this are pained and in character. The music grows gradually outward as the track continues. There is a real dramatic, proggy concept at play here. The cut builds outward to some soaring stuff that's twisted in the kind of way you expect from The Residents.
They Are The Meat
I dig the almost classical music progressions on this thing. The track works well, but isn't a huge change from that which has some before. In fact, it feels more like an extension.
Melancholy Clumps
There is some crazy weird sound at play on this. I love the almost classical angle to the melodic lines. Of course, this is The Residents so it's twisted to the weird end of the equation.
How To Get A Head
This is a more driving piece. It's harder rocking and energized. It has a lot of style with an almost R&B angle to it.
Cain And Abel
There is almost a tentative classical feel to this, but it's also trademark Residents, but on the mellower, melodic end of the equation.
Mr. Misery
Now this freaky, driving piece is more standard Residents music. This feels dangerous and angry at times.
Tent Peg In The Temple
Bouncy, freaky and fun, this is another classy piece of music. This is complex and tastefully strange.
God's Magic Finger
Trippy, classical music meets weird psychedelic strangeness drives this. There is an interesting duet kind of number. I love the almost jazzy elements later.
Spilling The Seed
Slower moving and dramatic and theatric, this is another tasty slab of weirdness.
Dinah And The Unclean Skin
I love the trippy, science fiction styled vibe of this cut. It has a definite theatrical vibe. This is gets driving and rocking later.
Bathsheba Bathes

There is a lot of tuned percussion sound on this strange beast of a number.

Bridegroom Of Blood
With a lot of classical music built into it, this is a freaky, driving kind of number. This has a duet vocal approach. There are a number of sound effects including a baby crying.
Hanging By His Hair

I love the driving, freaky vibe of this song. It's such a classy thing with a classic Residents prog vibe. The mix of classical and rock on this is intriguing and strangely effective.

The Seven Ugly Cows

Bass starts this in with almost a processional. The cut works forward from there.

Burn Baby Burn
This has almost a mainstream pop rock vibe. Of course, it's The Residents so there is a weird angle in the mix, too.
KILL HIM!

Driving Residents sound is in the driver's seat here. It's trademark and cool.

I Hate Heaven

Imagine if The Residents did a song for the musical "Grease." Go with the female vocals, and you probably have something close to this tune. There is a bit of a jazzy edge to it, too.

Judas Saves

Noisy, freaky and so cool, this is The Residents at their finest. There are hints of King Crimson in the mix.

Revelation

This instrumental piece has some powerhouse prog moments. Of course, it's all delivered in Residents fashion. It's weird, tasty and so cool.

Chapter Two:
        
Early Worms
                           
Waterfall

Freaky weird keyboard type music is on the menu here. It gets bursts of percussion and more in the mix. It works into some different directions before it's over.

Squid

This is a powerhouse cut that has some great percussion and cool almost spy movie music to it. Yet, it's electronic and decidedly Residents music, too. It gets very bombastic later in some really cool ways.

Sleepy Time

I dig the bouncy, driving groove on this number. It has some cool keyboard moments, and section that sounds a bit like a bullfrog is particularly cool.

SilverShield

Dramatic and pretty tasty keyboard work drives this.

Sausage City

There is a processional sort of vibe to this, but also a pure Residents groove. It gets tastefully freaky.

Sassy Bassy

Percussive elements bring this into being. In fact, this is largely percussive, even if some of it is of a tuned variety. The more melody driven parts are used more as accents.

Racking

There are some vocals on this more as an alternate percussion vibe or flavoring. This is another that leans heavily on the percussive side of things.

Possum

I dig the bouncy, almost playful vibe to this romp a lot.

Pickle

Both more classical and proggy, this is another strong instrumental mix.

NutraSweet

Bouncy and fun, the organ sounds lends a real retro edge. The synthetic voices are an interesting touch, too.

Movie

Lush keyboard textures start this. The track does have a bit of a movie soundtrack approach as it continues and piano delivers melody over the top. This is dramatic and bold. Yet, it's also fairly sedate.

Michael

There is a moving and rather symphonic approach to this track. It's another slab of pure class. This is quite an entertaining and intriguing piece.

Log Dam

I like the melody and groove on this a lot. It's has a definite Residents edge, but it also rather catchy. There some noisier elements later in the track. This is one of the highlights of this second CD.

Indo
I like the bouncy, driving percussive element on this track. The music has more of a weird melodic texture with a classical edge.
Humer

There is an almost monstrous element to parts of this. The cut has a symphonic, processional vibe, too.

France

There are synthetic chorale voices at the start of this. It turns out to a bouncing, grooving kind of electronic music romp as it continues. There is a lighthearted feeling to this.

Earth Man
Percussive textures start this. The tune takes on a real retro science fiction music as it continues.
Dooky Town
I love the bouncing musical groove driving this tune. It's a lot of fun.
Choppy
This does feel choppy, but in a good way. It has a driving energy and percussive vibe. There is a really prominent percussive texture here.
Chihuahua
I dig the trippy, dreamy kind of groove to this number. It turns more rocking and edgy later.
Cabbage
There is a great electronic rock with edges of classical music vibe to this piece. It's artsy and so tasty.
Beta
This is another energized and rather classical excursion.
Beach
More purely electronic, there is a playful vibe to some of this, but it also has a sense of the tastefully weird.
Anything
Very playful and entertaining, there is a real retro vibe here.
All Flash
There is more of a rock edge to this. It's a bit more mainstream, but it's still the Residents. It also still has some classical music in the mix.
Adenoids
With a real driving, pounding angle to this, it's dramatic, symphonic and bombastic.
Chapter Three:
                  
Early Worms II
                           
In The Beginning Sketch
This is dramatic, driving and ominous. There are effects and a lot of twists and turns on this thing. There is some mysterious world music that emerges further down the road.
SKull2 Un-American Band
I like the bouncing kind of fun energy that this has. It's a standout piece.
SkullBiz Sketch
The opening portion of this feels rather processional. The cut works out to some cool proggy stuff with some hints of dream-quality. This is another highlight.
Just A Whore (SkullBiz)
There is some hard rocking stuff on this along with music that's more in keeping with the rest. This is a classy number that works really well. It feels rather mainstream.
HeadSketch
With a definite proggy angle, this is classically tinged and a lot of fun.
Job Meets The Monsters
Feeling bouncy and playful as it gets underway, I like this tune a lot, too.
Abe Medley Sketch
Another standout track, this has some great melodies and textures built into it. There is a cool guitar and bass movement later, and the cut turns sort of ominous and freaky from there. Keyboards take control for a time. Then the number shifts to more of a pure progressive rock jam.
King Of Kings Sketch
Bouncy and fun keyboard based music drives this track. It definitely turns toward trademark Residents weirdness as it continues.
King Of Kings (Francis)
There is a great jazzy, proggy groove to this thing. It's another standout cut.
Jesus Saves (Version 1)
A processed vocal line and a percussive presence bring this track into being. It drives out to dramatic stuff after the vocal ends and other instruments join. The cut gets some sung vocals (also processed) later. There are is more of a driving and rather proggy concept to this in that section. It drops to a more stripped back arrangement after a while and a different weird vocal line joins.
Jesus Saves (Version 2)

More normal vocals are accompanied by weird waves of keyboards and some percussive textures on this. This has much more of a mainstream rock arrangement. It is definitely a proggy piece. It's also cool. It turns to a vocal only approach with a crowd yelling as a loop in the background later. That loop drops out and the vocal line continues unaccompanied from there.

Chapter Four:
                                    
Wormwood at the Fillmore 1998 (Act I)
                         
Mr. Skull Superstar
Classically styled fanfare works to a bit of "Jesus Christ Superstar" as this comes into being. There is a spoken section from there, talking about The Bible's real message, at least according to the Residents.
In the Beginning
There is a cool rocking jam that ensues as this thing gets underway. It is a cool track.
KILL HIM!
Theatrical and tastefully strange, this is trademark Residents. After the theatrical introduction, this pounds out with a rocking, metallic fury. This is a powerhouse number.
How to Get A Head
There is a processed spoken introduction that gives way to an almost mainstream pop rock groove with female vocals. A driving, hard rocking jam ensues later that gets into some cool world music zones. This thing keeps shifting, turning and evolving. It's quite a powerhouse number.
Hanging By His Hair
Another spoken section brings this track into being. It largely remains mostly spoken in a typical Residents way, but does gather more musical energy as it continues.
Mr. Misery
Driving, freaky, hard rocking Residents sounds are on the menu on this driving cut.
Tent Peg in the Temple
This cut opens with another spoken section, but it works out to more driving Residents music with female vocals. It's a powerhouse tune.
God's Magic Finger
Metallic and hard rocking, this is a real screamer.
Dinah And The Unclean Skin
A rather metallic screamer, this is another powerhouse tune.
Cain and Abel
A mellower, neo-classically based artsy tune, this is an intriguing change.
Burn Baby Burn
The female vocal on this works well. It's very much an art rock track.
Fire Fall
A psychotic sounding piece with a lot of classical and hard rocking music colliding with each other, this is another intriguing cut.
Chapter Five:
                  
Wormwood at the Fillmore 1998 (Act II)
                                      
The Seven Ugly Cows

Bouncy, chiming, world music styled sound is on the menu as this gets going. This instrumental is tasty.

Melancholy Lumps

Tuned percussion and percussion of the non-tuned variety drive the opening of this. There is a choir of voices that come in to deliver tribal sorts of vocals.

Bathsheba Bathes

A spoken introduction in a pretty standard Residents vein gets this cut going. There is more tribal world sound on this.

Bridegroom Of Blood

I dig the tuned percussion on this track. It's another classy Residents tune. This gets driving and powerful. It also has some tastefully weird stuff. There is a lot of tuned percussion in the mix, as well.

They Are The Meat
This gets a spoken introduction of the standard Residents variety. This gets into some punky, noisy rocking zones as it continues.
I Hate Heaven
This has a real 50s rock and roll vibe to it. There are female vocals and a lot of trademark Residents weirdness.
Judas Saves

Another spoken introduction begins this. After that extended movement, the track goes to a percussively driven arrangement.

Revelation

This is driving, edgy and packed full of all kinds of sounds. It's very much art rock and very much Residents music. It turns to mellow voice driven weirdness later. There is a bit of "Jesus Loves Me" in the mix here. The cut drives upward and outward into some seriously dramatic fanfare further down the road.

Smelly Tongues

Driving, screaming and cool, this is punky and yet artsy, too.

Moisture

This is a short song that feels like a continuation of the previous one.

Picnic Boy
Even harder edged and punkier, this is aggressive, driving and so cool.
Walter Westinghouse
A bouncing kind of number, this has a cool duet of male and female voices. It's a particularly proggy piece. It gets angry and screamy as it continues. It really becomes driving, crazed and so cool as it continues to evolve.
Chapter Six:
                
Roadworms
                   
Un-American Band

Percussion brings this into being. They work that out into some cool rocking zones. They even thrown a little Grand Funk Railroad into this thing.

How To Get A Head
A strange fanfare opens this track. This becomes a real free form kind of thing from there, but it eventually gets into some driving, hard rocking proggy zones. This has some pretty crazed twists and turns as it goes along.
Hanging By His Hair

There is a nice contrast between the twisted mellower parts and the driving hard-edged ones.

God's Magic Finger
I dig the artsy, proggy shifts and changes on this. The cut is dramatic, theatric and so cool.
Tent Peg In The Temple
Bouncing, theatrical and classy, the vocals here are female. This is quite a dramatic and dynamic cut.
Fire Fall
Organ serves as the accompaniment for the first vocals. Other instrumentation comes in as those vocals end, but the organ remains the prominent aspect. This turns screaming hot with distorted rocking sounds and screamed vocals further down the road.
Cain And Abel
Mellower music is at the heart of this as it gets underway. It's artistic and twisted in a typical Residents way.
Dinah And The Unclean Skin

Crazed, noisy and rocking, this track is pretty insane. It's also so cool.

Abraham
Driving, rocking and so classy, this feels a bit like an extension of the previous piece. The noisy guitar solo is so cool. While the first half has female vocals, the bombastic second part has both vocal types. There is an almost classical element to the cut. It gets downright screaming later, and the instrumental section that takes over after a time is on fire. There is almost an extreme metal edge to some of the vocals on this.
Burn Baby Burn
Female vocals with an ambient backdrop bring this in. That creates a stark contrast to the piece that came before it. This gets more of a classical approach as the arrangement builds, but there are stabs of noisy guitar in the mix, too. Overall, this remains mostly mellower.
Judas Saves
Sound effects start this. This builds in rather mellow ways, but there are moments filled with noisy guitar. The vocals are particularly weird, and the cut has a real artsy strangeness to it. Noisy, yet ambient, weirdness takes over for a time. After a time the "Hallelujah Chorus" is added to the mix and more rocking sound serves as accompaniment as more strange vocals are heard. This gets very powerful as it drives forward. It makes for quite a satisfying conclusion to the number.
Chapter Seven:
                         
Wormwood Live in Europe 1999 (Act I)
                                            
In The Beginning

An opening introduction section with a musical quote of "Jesus Christ Superstar" is heard as this gets underway. A crack of lightning heralds a new section that is melodic prog rock based, but builds to crunchier territory as it continues. It turns toward symphonic world music after a time. That moves it into the next number.

Welcome To Wormwood
Coming directly out of the previous one, some metallic sound opens this in style. The number continues to evolve from there. A snarled vocal joins after a time.
Mr. Skull's Rave 1
There is a lot of spoken stuff at the heart of this. There is some backing to this, but otherwise, it's just the voice.
How To Get A Head
The driving art rock weirdness and cool changes of this work really well here. It's dramatic, dynamic and at times very hard rocking. It's also in-your-face in some way, and it's quite theatrical.
Mr. Misery
This is a driving and theatrical piece of weirdness. This is an art-rocking powerhouse.
Tent Peg In The Temple
Dramatic and powerful, this is a theatric tune that rocks like crazy. It's crazed and works well in this live performance.
Mr. Skull's Rave 2
Here we get another spoken piece that is dramatic, theatric and so cool.
God's Magic Finger
This dramatic, hard rocking cut is both cool and crazed.
Dinah And The Unclean Skin
Bombastic, symphonic and powerful. It's also tastefully weird and crazed.
Cain And Abel
Mellower and so classy, this is a symphonic sort of track that reminds me a little of early King Crimson as delivered here. It moves more toward classically driven music as it works out to the later parts of the tune.
Mr. Skull's Rave 3
Here we have another spoken skit type piece.
Burn Baby Burn
Proggy dramatic and intriguing, this is theatrical and compelling. It's also suitably strange.
Fire Fall
Plodding Residents weirdness with symphonic angles are on display here. It gets crazed and odd and works to some bouncy sort of old-time music and effects at the end.
Chapter Eight:
        
Wormwood Live in Europe 1998 (Act II)
                      
King Of Kings

After an opening symphonic fanfare, this grinds out with a cool guitar-laden section. This is a driving cut as it gets going.

Skull Prayer
This is the song that has the quote from GFR. This is sort a stripped back, but still cool arrangement of the piece.
Mr. Skull's Rave 4
This is another spoken number. It's suitably Residents weird.
Abraham
Pounding, driving and so crazed, this has both male and female vocals and gets quite intense.
Bridegroom Of Blood
Theatrically, odd and artsy, this has symphonic elements, operatic ones and a lot of style. It has both male and female vocals and works well here.
Mr. Skull's Rave 5
There are symphonic elements at play in the backdrop of this piece, but the main element is spoken.
David
I love the bouncing, driving music that makes this up here. The female vocals come over the top bringing the weirdness with them. This cut is an extended one that goes through a lot of twists and turns. It has both male and female vocals in later parts of the song.
Judas Saves
This starts in more standard ways, but it works out to some seriously driving, crazed sounds later. It gets so powerfully arranged and layered. It is one of the coolest pieces of this whole live show. .There is some of "Jesus Loves Me" on this track.
Old Time Religion
There is a dramatic symphonic prog styled processional that makes up the first long section of this. It drops to a female vocal section that's unaccompanied. A male preacher-styled recitation comes in over the top of it. This works out into a gospel-turned-Residents stomper version of the old hymn that bears the same title. They put in some different lyrics at points. There is a full on congregation stomp section further down the road.
Jesus Loves Me
This is a fairly short and rather trippy instrumental piece with tuned percussion, electronic and symphonic textures.
Chapter Nine:
                             
Woodworms
                       
In Between Screams

This cut is more than 20-minutes long. It starts with some old-school country, gospel music. They play it pretty straight with that for a time. Then it twists to weird electronics from there. It eventually gets some soulful gospel music added to the mix mostly via vocals as that electronic jamming continues. Further down the road soulful vocals bring some of "The Last Time" to bear amidst the electronic backdrop. More soulful elements are delivered by super-low vocals and some hints of horns beyond that. Those electronics keep holding down the bottom end as other soulful elements and things rise up to deliver style and charm. This is a killer tune that has so much art and style built into it.

Nober
This instrumental is proggy and so classy. It's more on the melodic, mellower side, but it has energy. It also gets a little bombastic in an electronic classical way later.
Bridegroom Of Blood (SF 2001)
Tuned percussion dances around with processed or sampled vocals. Eventually a sung Residents vocal emerges over the top of that backdrop. Other voices emerge as this cut continues and the track has some pretty freaky twists and turns along the road. This is theatrical, tastefully bizarre and so cool.
Burn Baby Burn (SF 2001)
I dig the retro cool element to this. The guitar lines that sort of dance across at times call to mind King Crimson. There is an almost trance-like quality to this number.
They Are The Meat/Mr. Misery (Australia 2005)
I dig the guitar riffing and harmonica on this. There is a bit of a dreamy quality here, too, but it's made more Earthy by those things. The super-high-pitched vocals lend a layer of weirdness to the piece.
Burn Baby Burn (Australia 2005)

Dramatic, theatric and trippy, this is weird, but also very cool.

They Are The Meat (Oslo 2011)
More freaky Residents art-rock is on display on this cut. Trademark Residents male vocals emerge over the top and the cut continues to evolve from there.
Hanging By His Hair (Munich, 2013)
World music and other elements are in the mix here. This turns more rocking with edgy guitar-laden Residents music.
Bathsheba Bathes (Munich, 2013)
Angry, artsy and cool, this is tastefully weird. While much of his is art rock, the rather screamed closing is quite punky.
They Are The Meat (NYC, 2014)
Starting with more of an electronic music backdrop, stabs of guitar rise up as this moves forward. The rhythm part of it is rather Latin. The whole tune drives with a lot of style and Residents magic. It gets driving and angry near the end.
Judas Saves (Laussanne, 2014)
I dig the driving rather trademark dreamy Residents quality to this version. This is a prime example of the art rock angle of the band.

 

 
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