If you've spent any significant time listening to music, you'll likely find that occasionally someone will tell you about an album that's so bad they can't even listen to it. You might even agree; but it's even odds that you're just as likely to express amazement at how anyone could be so far off in their judgment of what you think is a piece of musical brilliance.
Sometimes there's just no accounting for taste; but sometimes, an album comes along that garners near consensus when it comes to being defined as "unlistenable." And I don't mean necessarily that it's bad: sometimes it's so harmonically advanced or ahead of it's time that to actually sit and listen to it is simply very hard.
The following is a selection of ten albums I think the vast majority of regular people and casual music fans would hear and simply say, "What is this crap?" And they might even be right – maybe some of these really are crap, and some are maybe just so brilliant that they're above most people's ability to fathom them. In either case, I hope I'm not seen as trashing these albums – I actually like most of them. I simply figure these platters don't get spun often, if much at all, hence the term "unlistenable." I'll let the readers decide which are which, and you're all welcome to add to the list – but, of course, I won't blame anyone for not going out and tracking any of these down except as a curiosity.
In no particular order:
1) The Shaggs – Philosophy of the World – back in the 60s, a trio of sisters began to learn how to play drums and guitars. Their father decided after a few weeks they were ready for the studio, when in reality the were probably due for more music lessons. The resulting album is out of tune and out of sync, yet it possessed a peculiar charm and redefines the word "amateur."
2) Jimi Hendrix (with Jim Morrison) – Woke Up This Morning and Found Myself Dead (boot) – Jimi attempts an after hours jam while Jimbo yells profanities at the audience. Remember, Jim – when the music's over, turn out the light. I think Johnny Winter is onstage too somewhere.
3) Neil Young -Arc - for those who thought guitar feedback was the best part of Neil's electric set, Neil simply got rid of the set & kept the guitar squelch.
4) Lou Reed – Metal Machine Music – Lou one ups Neil: no set, no guitars – just the feedback.
5) The Velvet Underground – Squeeze – replacement player Doug Yule one ups both Neil and Lou by getting rid of Lou and having the nerve to still call it the Velvet Underground. Supposedly Ian Paice from Deep Purple somehow ended up playing drums, but I've never ever read or heard of him actually admitting it.
6) Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica – it's supposed to be brilliant, but I still have a hard time getting through it in one sitting. Maybe it's not supposed to be liked.
7) Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Sessions – a beautiful album actually, but I have to take it in small doses – it's so relaxing that I always fall asleep after the first two ro three songs.
8) John Coltrane – Ascension - free form jazz at its peak, but just a traffic jam of horns to the uninitiated (all votes for Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz are acceptable here too).
9) The Monkees – Changes ummm….. this is supposed to be so bad that I've never actually heard it – heck, I've never even seen a copy of it either, which makes it either truly terrible, or else a collectors' item.
10) Brian Eno – Ambient #1 – Music for Airports – OK, it's cheating a bit, but you're not supposed to listen to Eno's Ambient series; it's designed to be ignored and run as background. Actually listening to it is a chore, but if you're doing chores, it's rather soothing (especially if you happen to work at an airport).
So the next time you're listening to tunes at a big party and someone says, "I can't even listen to (insert name of once famous artist) anymore," pull out one of these priceless platters (if you have any of them) and keep an eye on your watch. It likely won't be long before many of your friends suddenly grab their coats and wave their goodbyes because they just all at this very moment thought they all had to go back home and check up on their babysitters. Or else dig up their Lou albums…..