Various Artists

Better Than the Beatles: A Tribute to the Shaggs

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The appeal of the Shaggs goes beyond the simple novelty of their situation. Their appeal is partially based on the naïve, simple pop songs that lie beneath the noise and the terrible playing. So this tribute to the Wiggin sisters could have easily been a joke, with bands purposefully making goofy and terrible-sounding covers of the material. Instead, the bands here try their hardest to live up to the pop intentions of the original songs. Basically, if the Shaggs could play their instruments, their songs would have sounded much more like this. It is a good thing they never learned, because these songs would not have the wide-eyed charm that they do without the rough original versions to work from. Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 slowly crawl through "Who Are Parents" with their own quirky style that leaves the song echoing quietly throughout its own duration. Ida's warm, psychedelic take on "Philosophy of the World" is just different enough from Double U's fragile indie pop version to allow both songs to appear without much fuss. Plastic Mastery's "Shagg's Own Thing" might be the best track here; with their shuffled beat and droning guitar they come the closest to sounding like the Shaggs. On the other end of things, the second best track is probably Bauer's "We Have a Savior," which is a well-produced, pleasantly approached rendition that brings to mind the Carpenters. The entire album is good, with each band understanding how to approach the songs without being condescending to the material. Fans of the original band should check this out; it makes it easy to see what could have happened to the Shaggs if they would have learned how to play. On the flip side, this album may be the best way to ease an unfamiliar listener into their world without directly playing Philosophy of the World. These are the same songs, just played in a more accessible way. Either way, this is a recommended tribute to a band who is too often overlooked and considered a joke.

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