Various Artists

The Rhino Brothers Present the World's Worst Records!

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There is perverse pleasure to be had in sampling the tasteless, inept, and bizarre, and it was with this fact in mind that Rhino Records unleashed The Rhino Brothers Present the World's Worst Records!, a compilation of abrasive novelty songs, demented outsider artists, and clumsy comedy. With liner notes by Dr. Demento and Rhino mainstays Barnes & Barnes and Wild Man Fischer on board, there's not much doubt as to the tone of the collection. The set list is skewed strongly toward silly, self-consciously dumb parody tunes that range from amusing (Ogden Edsl's wacky child-abuse singalong "Kinko the Clown") to obvious and unfunny ("I Wanna Be Your Dog" sung by some bad Three Stooges imitators). Should the "World's Worst Records" include songs like these that were specifically designed for such a list? For those who think not, there's the psychobilly classic "Paralyzed," a formless, atonal jumble of guitar, drum, and bugle from the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, a genuine eccentric who actually turned this wild, incredibly alive record into a hit for a short while in 1968. The highlight of the set is the brilliantly dumb "Surfin' Tragedy," recorded in 1963 by the Breakers; this priceless hybrid of surf pop and the "teen tragedy" tradition sets a romantic tale of death on the waves to a ham-fisted Beach Boys-style ballad, complete with a mournful French horn hook. Gloria Balsam's proudly off-key "Fluffy" is sure to clear the room at your next family reunion, and with the original single long out of print, its appearance is valuable (to a select few). Also welcome are classic novelties from the wrestling-obsessed Novas and the taste-impaired Jimmy Cross, though their numbers are easily available on several other compilations. Toward the end of the 20th century, the interest in records that ignore or reject the popular standards of what constitutes "good" music grew into a recognizable cult (writer Irwin Chusid explored the new genre with Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music). Blame it on the age of irony, or a desperate attempt to find unique sounds in an increasingly homogenous world, but there are those who find pleasure in the accidental, the broken, and the incorrect. The Rhino Brothers Present the World's Worst Records! anticipated this trend several years in advance, proposing that "bad" was infinitely better than "boring," though their overdependence on prefab wackiness lessens the importance of the package.

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