You can’t answer “Metal Machine Music”!!!!!
I took the week off last week, and I apologize. Sometimes real life gets in the way! But I’m back, and I’d like to know what you think the weirdest album released by a “mainstream” artist is. I think even people who haven’t heard it (like me, despite my bio on this page) would say Metal Machine Music, Lou Reed’s 1975 double album that is widely regarded as not only the weirdest, but possibly the worst, album ever. You just can’t answer that, so deal with it!
You might question what “mainstream” is. Like obnoxious politicians talking about pornography, I can’t define “mainstream,” but I know it when I see it. So no weird avant-garde throat singers doing twelve-tone compositions about the glory of chemistry. You know what I’m talking about!!!!!
Okay, phew, sorry about that. For me, the weirdest album released by a mainstream artist is The Rainbow Children. Basically, his “Jehovah’s Witness” album. It came out in November 2001, and it’s … well, it’s something. It’s not exactly bad, you understand, just odd. Prince is a musical genius, so the sounds he makes on the album are interesting, and he mixes in a lot of jazz, which he hadn’t done very much in the previous 20+ years of his recording career, but there’s a lot of New Age weirdness and Egyptian weirdness and spoken-word weirdness … it’s just weird, man. The title track is a nice ten minutes long, with a lot of modified vocals and meandering guitars and hot horns. “The Work Part 1” is a groovy tune in which Prince channels James Brown and adds some nice social commentary to the lyrics. “Deconstruction” is sci-fi jazz, which is just bizarre. Again, it’s not a bad album, and if you pick a random song (“The Work,” for instance), it might be less weird. But if you listen to it straight through, the weirdness really comes out. Prince was in the middle of a particularly weird phase from about 2000-2004, after Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999) and before Musicology (2004), and The Rainbow Children is his weird masterpiece.
What is your weirdest album by a mainstream artist? I know I missed plenty, so I want to hear them! Is it Ummagumma? Tales from Topographic Oceans? Thick as a Brick? Lay it on me!