Wormwood (1998)

Wormwood is sub-titled "Curious Stories From The Bible". The album takes a humanized view of biblical stories and ideas. The scholarly approach is avoided and all of the situations are explored from the perspective of the characters involved. This approach works really well, making the violent-tragic-sexy stories really stand up in their own right. The generous number of songs have been recorded in myriad styles, from gloom and menace to sweet, almost (but not quite) mainstream pop. My only criticism is that the exclusion of one or two of the less stand out tracks might have made for an even stronger album.

Though The Residents have been pretty busy the last few years there's not been that much in the way of stand-alone recordings. WW is easily their best album of the 90s and, to my mind, their best since Cube-E. I like the Freak Show concept but I don't think the songs stand up on their own as well as these do. Ok, WW is still a concept but there's some real tunes here. Cain and Abel, Fire Fall, Hanging By His Hair and Judas Saves are superb songs. KILL HIM!, Mr Misery, Revelation and Melancholy Clumps still contain that beloved Rezsound. How To Get A Head, God's Magic Finger, Burn Baby Burn and I Hate Heaven point in a surprising "pop" direction. Surprising that is until I read Ram Samudrala's piece which pointed out that the whole thing can be seen as a twisted take on those religious musicals of the 70s which we know and love (indeed at the live shows they came on to Jesus Christ Superstar). I think WW demonstrates that The Residents just get better, musically, lyrically, production wise, even the packaging is excellent.