Music Reviews


The Shaggs

Philosophy of the World


I’ll come straight to the point. The Shaggs play what you might find to be the most unlistenable music you’ve ever heard. Sure, you may loathe speed metal, find Yanni an uncontrollable bore and think HI-NRG Dance Music to be a waste of an acronym, but at least these are all variations on musical themes, played by mostly-talented musicians. The Shaggs have none of that.

Three adolescent girls from New Hampshire, squired into the studio by a father intent on securing a spot of Music History 1969, ground out the twelve recordings on here. A first listen to this album reveals that perhaps Austin Wiggin should have waited until Dorothy, Helen and Betty learned to play their instruments. A couple of years with a metronome, a Mel Bay songbook… maybe even a spot in the garage so they can get used to playing with each other and take their cues on time. Then again, all of this would have resulted in a sound that approximated, or at the very least was influenced by, the general ideas of countless other musicians.

The Shaggs, as is often noted, come from their own musical planet. There may not be many reference points to music outside Philosophy of the World , but the dozen songs on here show a consistency of approach – the Shaggs have an instantly recognizable vocal harmony, say like Supertramp. Similarly, the drums seem to play their rhythms and fills with very little regard to what the two guitars are doing. The guitars jangle in near-unison, most of the time.

In a way, listening to the Shaggs is like taking a dunk in ice-cold water. It may not look too attractive beforehand, and you may wish like almighty hell to get out of there for the first few minutes, but you’ll find yourself strangely refreshed afterwards. Take a listen to this long-running cult classic, now available in digital format from A Major Label, and rearrange your musical landscape.

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