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The Shaggs

It’s hard to overstate the awfulness of 1969’s Philosophy Of The World. The guitars are jarringly out of tune, the singing off-key, the drums hopelessly lost and the combination virtually unlistenable. But it’s haunting, too, in a way that other pop albums can never hope to approach. Time stops when you listen to Philosophy Of The World, which is what makes the Shaggs so singular. The rest of life grinds to a halt, and it’s impossible to think about anything but the music and the way these three sisters squeeze all this dissonance into three-minute songs about runaway cats, lost love and a world where “the skinny people want what the fat people got and the fat people want what the skinny people got.” That this outsider art survived to find an audience—fans like Terry Adams, Kurt Cobain, Frank Zappa and Lenny Kaye, who wrote the liner notes for this reissue—is a miracle. There’s nothing else like it, and once you listen, you’ll never forget it. —Kenny Berkowitz