Here is another fabulous list of important records, this one organized around the theme of "most drug-addled." As with the avant-garde list, this author's choices are ripe for debate. The writing on the entries is also fun.
RAMPANT MADNESS, cheap powder, and the whiskey river: below are the 50 most debauched, sodden, and certifiable records in music history.
The rules are simple: being merely eccentric while swathed in outlandish clothing fails to qualify. Having done an epic amount of street powder while getting handjobs in the groupie van is not enough. Hell, Steven Tyler claims to have spent $3 million on cocaine over the years, but would Aerosmith have sounded one iota different if they'd been straight edge? It's the same reason Mötley Crüe doesn't warrant space on this list. Sure, they snorted live ants (actually, that was Ozzy) and mainlined Jack Daniel's to stave off epic boredom, but their music would have been exactly the same steaming pile of hair regardless.
No, to make this list, the music on a given album has to bleed chemical influence while also leaching a very specific brand of desperation and/or madness. The vocals, the rhythm, the melody–all have to be drenched in reverb, compression, and frighteningly altered states that could not have been recorded any other way.
Except through a blind leap into the void. Roll it, pour it, cook it, crush it, or just get stone-cold crazy; the needle will drop into the groove either way.
But excess is never enough. There also has to be undeniable beauty. And there is. Every single album on this list is a remarkable document, and warrants repeated listens over the course of a lifetime.
The Madcap Laughs/Barrett (1974) [Compilation]
No other album was even considered for the top spot. Without question, this is the most raw, disturbing, and haunting entry on the list. So much so that both solo works had to be included. Syd Barrett left Pink Floyd in 1968 due to mounting instability and lysergic dissolution, but it's because of his huddling pair of solo albums, Madcap Laughs and Barrett, that he appears here. This is broken music. Lost Thelonius. Way out on the coil. Completely untethered. But it's also beautiful, transcendent, and truly childlike. The structureless quality of the songs, combined with improvised lyrics and jarring (but somehow perfect) rhythmic changes, tap into something elemental without making any effort to. These songs simply exist. It's a sound bands have been laboring to achieve for half a century, but only Syd sounds like Syd. And even he only briefly did.
Locust Abortion Technician (1987)
Without question THE most terrifying album ever recorded, and purportedly done so at the tail end of oceans of cheap acid, this record, if played at correct volumes, can strip the paint off your '83 Camry. Legendary Texas madman and insufferable genius Gibby Haynes lays it all on the line here, and then goes twelves steps over. I was once listening to "O-Men" on my headphones in a cubicle in college and the librarian came and tapped me on the shoulder and said "people are complaining about the frequencies coming from you." Yes, that is a true story. I dare anyone to listen to "Kunts" at top volume, alone in a house at midnight, with all the lights off.
[H/t McKenzie Wark]
Image: YouTube album cover screengrab