Never Heard of 'Em: The Shaggs
Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.
Philosophy of the World
Right now, I'm sitting outside a Starbucks in a big outdoor mall—don't ask me why, it's complicated. It's a beautiful day, but all I can smell is asphalt, exhaust, and potted plants. At the table next to me are two attractive young women wearing TOMS shoes, talking earnestly about their relationship to God and how hard it is to read the Bible often enough. Surrounded by all of this wholesome Americanness and looking at the Shaggs album cover, I was thinking they wouldn't be quite subversive enough for this moment.
Wrong! These freaks are amazing! What is going on? Right off the bat: "The skinny people want what the fat people's got/And the fat people want what the skinny people's got/You can never please anybody in this world." That's called "Philosophy of the World." And I don't think they can really pronounce their r's. I'm not sure they can play their instruments very well, either. They appear to have either no sense of rhythm or a really elevated sense of rhythm that's so good it sounds like no rhythm.
Ha-ha-ha... now they're singing all about how your parents are actually cooler than your stupid young friends. Did their parents write this song? It's called "Who Are Parents" and it goes like this: "Parents are the ones who really care/Parents are the ones who are always there... Parents are the ones who will always understand."
Oh my god, this is so bad! There's a song about an imaginary friend named "Foot Foot." It ends with a "drum solo" that sounds like an accident. I can't get over it. I'm trying not to laugh so loud that all the mall people look at me weird, but it's hard. Nothing could've prepared me for this.
What's the deal with the Shaggs? Who are they? My guess is: home-schooled. (Second guess: joke band. Third guess: aliens. Fourth guess: Germans.) Let's find out, shall we, interwebs/liner notes?
It turns out the Shaggs were three teen sisters in the 1960s whose dad wanted them to become a famous rock band. This is like the auditory equivalent of parents having their kids' ridiculous but funny drawings expensively framed. Because there's something charmingly serious about the wackitude, a bunch of indie musicians have apparently always cited Philosophy of the World as seminal outsider art and/or one of their favorite albums. I mean, I appreciate weird, and I say go ahead and play this for your friends at a party sometime. It's not getting near my top-10 list, but I sure can imagine our fairylike music editor Emily Nokes, who gave me this album, loving the shit out of it.
Wait, you guys, breaking news: The Bible girls just started bonding over how they both secretly have a bunch of fake teeth. Really! The world is amazing.
I give this an "I love humans" out of 10.