The Shaggs - Philosophy of the World
Feb 12, 2021 (updated Feb 12, 2021)

Really surprised by the low rating on this album. I mean sure by conventional standards this album is a mess, but a close observation reveals there is a LOT going on in this record that is absolutely fascinating.

Despite the messy performances and perplexing song structures, it's clear as day the Wiggin sisters knew their way around their instruments. The songs they're playing are HARD. They practiced on a regular basis for YEARS, much like Captain Beefheart's band did in preparation for Trout Mask Replica, and the end result is a record that would be extremely difficult for any formally trained musician to play along with.

By practicing their instruments so intensely outside the realm of traditional music theory, these sisters essentially invented their own unique music theory just for themselves to help them put this album together. Yes, there is seriously structured music theory and order within this musical clusterf*ck. Every note is planned. There is clear musical communication between the sisters. I need to repeat this: THESE SONGS ARE F*CKING HARD TO PLAY.

I legitimately thought this was an incredibly well-trained band purposely playing sloppily for an avant-garde effect at first. In a sense, I was right.

Let's take a quick look at the Shaggs formula:

- very long, extended vocal melodies which are absolutely dizzying and frankly sound totally improvised. I read a comparison to Ornette Colman and I think that's a brilliant comparison.

- A lead guitar that plays along exactly with the vocal melodies. If it weren't for the lead guitar playing along perfectly, I'd just assume all the vocal melodies in this are completely improvised.

- Drums that play a completely different tempo than the other musicians the entire song. I think this is the primary reason this album sounds so f*cked up. If the drums played the proper tempo this album would sound way more digestible (although I'm glad they didn't do that)

- Two vocalists singing in harmony (kind of?) slightly off key

- A rhythm guitarist playing extremely rare and dissonant chords. You'll probably find these chords used in mathcore, noise rock, post punk, and screamo, but not very much anywhere else. The Shaggs put it in their pop rock

- Unrelenting charm and creativity that'll put a smile on your face

All this is to say, there is an immense amount of talent as well as intentional composition choices throughout this record that is only found amongst the best records of all time. It's a carefully crafted mess. It's incredibly unique, incredibly influential, and never to be replicated.

I dare you to pick up your guitar and try to learn these songs. Now try singing along. Good fucking luck.

P.S. - My Pal Foot Foot is a masterpiece and way more creative than 99% of rock coming out nowadays.
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