We’ve been thoroughly enjoying the new Prince Rama record, Top Ten Hits of the End of the World, here at Flavorpill central, and not just because of its rather topical apocalyptic overtones. We’re all for outlandish concepts and wild ambition, and this record certainly satisfies both those criteria — it’s based around exactly what its title suggests, with the Larson sisters channeling the spirit of ten bands who’ll die during some sort of unspecified future holocaust to create a sort of post-apocalyptic compilation record (with a healthy dose of the band’s “Now Age” philosophy on the side). The whole thing’s as endearingly ridiculous as it sounds, and it’s also pretty great — so to celebrate its release, we thought we’d look at some of our favorite records in a similar vein, albums based around concepts that sound too outlandish to be true, but do exist nevertheless. Let us know if you have any to add!
Prince Rama — Top Ten Hits of the End of the World
We’ll be honest: we generally regard Brooklyn-based glitter-bedizened neo-hippie types with suspicion. But Prince Rama are so outlandish that it’s hard not to like them — their shows are more absurdly flamboyant every time we see them, and to be honest we rather respect a band that’s prepared to be this ambitious in an era of post-ironic hashtagged conformity. Even so, they’ve outdone themselves with this record. According to its press release, “its residual echoes will continue to haunt this world and the next.” ॐ!
Coheed and Cambria, generally
New York neo-proggists Coheed and Cambria pretty much define the term “gloriously absurd” — their entire discography is based around an ongoing mythos called The Amory Wars, a sci-fi storyline that concerns the struggle of the titular Coheed and Cambria against a nefarious villain called the Supreme Tri-Mage and also ties into a series of graphic novels written by the band’s vocalist Claudio Sanchez.
Ramases — Space Hymns
We discovered this chap via the comments section from our feature last year on weird records. (See? The comments section can be great if everyone’s nice to one another!) The musician known as Ramases was plain old Martin Raphael of Sheffield, England, who was happily running a central heating business until he was struck by the conviction that he was actually the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh and that his role in this life was to make strange, wigged-out psychedelic music that discussed ideas like the thought that “we are most probably existing on a molecule inside the material of, perhaps, a living thing in the next size up.” His debut album Space Hymns was actually quite good in its own, um, unique way, but sadly failed to trouble the charts.
Rudimentary Peni — Cacophony (1987)
What, you thought that there was no such thing as a 30-song deathrock opus about the life of HP Lovecraft? Ha! You were WRONG!
The Flaming Lips — Gummy Skull EP
Where to begin with Wayne Coyne et al? There’s a strong argument for Zaireeka‘s inclusion here — an album that requires being played on four CD players simultaneously is never gonna be something you queue up on a whim — but still, even the quixotic absurdity of that concept pales in comparison with the silliness of releasing an EP on a USB stick embedded in a giant skull made of marijuana-flavored gummy bear stuff.
The Somerset Strings — Music for Washing and Ironing
Oh yes — long before Music for Airports, a mysterious 1950s group called The Somerset Strings were pioneering the idea of soothing utilitarian music for people in stressful environments. And the stressed people in question? Why, the housewives of America, of course, who would no doubt otherwise be prone to bouts of womanly hysteria in the course of their crushingly tedious domestic chores. No doubt this soothed their fragile little feminine souls, eh? Lest we rest too long on our post-feminist laurels, let’s remember that it’s barely 50 years since this record’s existence was considered perfectly acceptable, and at least one presidential candidate probably owns a copy. Less gloriously absurd than plain old absurd, this is as much an important historical document as it is proof that the 1950s were FUCKED UP.
Michael Viner — The Best of Marcel Marceao
As in, y’know, the famous mime artist (although his name was spelt “Marceau”). This record was the project of one Michael Viner, a producer from LA best known for this, and featured a whole lot of silence followed by applause. Improbably, it charted and won Viner a record deal. It’s also a Tom Waits favorite.
Crispin Glover — The Big Problem ≠ the Solution. The Solution = Let It Be
Frankly, if it’s half as weird as What Is It?, we’re kinda terrified to listen to this. Crispin Glover is scary.
Heins Hoffman-Richter — Music to Freak Your Friends and Break Your Lease
From what we can gather, this amusingly titled early electronic cacophony — which bills itself as a “symphony for tape delay, IBM instruction manual and ohm septet” — was designed to be as strange as possible, and it certainly delivered in spades. Hoffman-Richter would later go onto make something called My Love Lies Sleeping With a Male Chorus, a “Cantata for reverb-a-phone, kitchen utensils and 21 male vices” — sadly, we can find no trace of this later work on the web.
And finally, we discussed this record a while back when we looked at geeky concept albums, but still: King Arthur. On ice. The end.