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Here at From Corners Unknown, we tend to focus on music and noise which is a little heavier than the toe-tapping tunes our grandparents once did the twist to. As such, it may come as a surprise that for this Retrospective Review we dived into an album blasting straight out of the flower-power heyday of the 1960s. Contrary to what you may be thinking, what this album may lack in volume, distortion and auditory brutality, it more than makes up for in psychological horror and darkness—especially once you’ve scratched through the veneer of jangly guitars, out of time drums, and bizarre monotone vocal “harmonies”. Welcome to our exploration of the surprisingly nightmarish album that is The Philosophy of the World by The Shaggs.
The Shaggs consisted of three sisters from the rural town of Fremont, New Hampshire, and to cut a long story short, they were essentially forced to play music against their will by their unstable and controlling father. Famously, their father believed that it was prophesised that his daughters would one day play in a band together. In this review we explore the relationship between the band members and their father, and we would like to explicitly state that this discussion does get into some extremely uncomfortable and disturbing topics regarding abuse.
On a somewhat lighter note, we also look at the musical legacy of The Philosophy of the World—an album that is today widely considered to be the worst album ever recorded. And yet, despite holding this title, adoration for this record is abundant, to the extent that Frank Zappa proclaimed the band to be “better than the Beatles,” and the two surviving members of The Shaggs were curated to perform at Wilco’s Solid Sound music festival in 2017.
So if you like weird stories and even weirder music, then we have a treat for you today. Prepare yourself for the history and the horror of the “worst” band ever to be recorded. You may, like us, come to find that there’s a lot more to this album than initially meets the ear, and even end up enjoying it.
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