Music, like anything that bears the creative curse of often being for monetary gain, is most popular when simple, easy, and fun to dance to. People who don’t have the time to care about what they listen to will opt for radio hits and predominantly what’s being played in the vicinity. It’s difficult to take the time to get into the weird stuff, especially music that’s creative and real strange; it doesn’t hook you in like that. Oddball tunes and albums, though, are a necessary sonic excursion from the hits and known acts.
Of course, simple rockin’ tunes are still an important part of the music world, and keep the whole thing together. Foo Fighters songs are great because of their volume, simplicity, and driving force, and every Earth, Wind, and Fire album gets its groove from pristine blends of simple song components. You don’t have to abandon the good simple music, but it’s eye-opening to dig in to the weird and wacky that music has to offer.
Below are some of the weirdest albums I could extract from the discography of the universe, for your soon-to-be warped eardrums.
Interstellar Space (John Coltrane)
Coltrane was one of the jazz greats, and this wacky exploration of Coltrane’s inner brain galaxy is no exception. Every one of its four tracks, named after planets and clocking in at almost ten minutes each, begins with ominous sleigh bells and then hyper-jumps to a weird rapture of drums and sax.
The musical antics of Tyondai Braxton plus the insane, heavy hitting kit work of Helmet alum John Stanier equals just about the loudest nonsense you’ve ever heard. This experimental rock album will have you headbanging to every time signature imaginable, and induce at least a little sonic delirium along the way.
The Light (Spock’s Beard)
First off, this progressive rock band has the strangest and probably nerdiest name ever. Secondly, their music is alarmingly good, and uncompromising in its weirdness. Led by prog rock great Neal Morse before his eventual departure from the group, Spock’s Beard was a throwback to the oddest Yes and King Crimson tunes, with even more strange arrangements and delicious keyboard cheese. This is their first album, and their strangest.
Maggot Brain (Funkadelic)
Grandmaster of Funk George Clinton told guitarist Eddie Hazel to imagine his mother’s death, and then the knowledge that she wasn’t dead after all, and that turned into the soul destruction that’s just the first track of this ridiculous groove volcano. As the lyrics go, “Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time, for y’all done knocked her up.” Weird and mind shattering like only Funkadelic could be.
Erpland (Ozric Tentacles)
Basically, Ozric Tentacles is the band wizards would listen to if wizards were real. Erpland, one of their first releases – they have a ton – is a surreal heavenscape of subtly strange music magic, and perfect for anyone who wants to be transported to a place where clouds are made of sound waves and the streets are paved with keyboards.
Trout Mask Replica (Captain Beefheart)
If you ever need to be shut in a box filled with broken blues guitars and utter madness, this album is for you. It’s widely regarded as one of rock’s finest ventures into pure crazy, and it sure does jangle about without a care for time signature, hooks, or anything regular music takes into consideration. A gorgeously messy masterpiece.
Penguin Cafe Orchestra (Penguin Cafe Orchestra)
Like if a bunch of penguins in hipster overalls got together to play chamber jazz a la Philip Glass. Not over the top whacked out, but still haunting in all the right ways, and different than what you’d normally listen to.
Hypermagic Mountain (Lightning Bolt)
If you love having your brain destroyed by a fuzzy tornado of insane guitars, vocals, and just all out, straight-to-your-goddamn-face rock & roll that doesn’t give a shit if you understand anything that’s going on, ever.
Holiday (Alaska In Winter)
Imagine a friend of the guy from Beirut hiding in the middle of nowhere Alaska and making trippy electronic tunes. The result is mesmerizing and super chilled out, perfect for a dim room filled with marijuana smoke and scattered conversations about the meaning of nothingness.