Of all the offenses perpetrated on the public by hipsters — dumb facial hair, kombucha, Saved by the Bell-themed pop-up diners — perhaps the most egregious deal with their consumption of music. To them, a record’s value is not whether the songs are good or bad, but how it was discovered. Those bargain crates in the record store are literally the dustbins of musical history to most people, but to hipsters, they’re a world of undiscovered brilliance, precisely because no one else wants to hear those records.
This is why the recently “celebrated” Record Store Day has become insufferable. What began as genuinely heartfelt attempt to bring people back into independent brick-and-mortar shops has become an opportunity for music snobs to spend hours in line for the chance at getting limited-edition collections of things they should have bought years ago, with a large degree of the fun being the ability to rub your purchases in the faces of those didn’t get there early enough. It’s turned albums into Beanie Babies, and that mindset is also why the Dot Wiggin Band’s 2013 album Ready! Get! Go! was inevitable.
Dot Wiggin was the lead singer of the Shaggs, whose story is a skidmarked footnote in rock and a cautionary tale for stage parents everywhere. In short, they were a trio of sisters who, at their father’s insistence, formed a band, even though they had no songwriting or musical ability. Still, he financed their album, Philosophy of the World, which was released in 1969 to justifiably horrible reviews. Of course, it nonetheless found a handful of champions over the years, notably NRBQ’s Terry Adams, Kurt Cobain and professional jazz-farter Frank Zappa*. Those endorsements, as well as its perpetual placement on worst-album-ever lists, has given Philosophy of the World the ultimate hipster cred, the convergence of their so-bad-it’s-good and only-a-handful-of-us-know-about-this categories.
After spending more than 40 years as both a punchline and a cult hero, Wiggan answered nobody’s call for a follow-up and resurfaced in 2013 with Ready! Get! Go! But did she use the decades to learn how to play or sing so that she could clear her name and live with dignity?
Of course not. Instead, Wiggan gives the hipsters what they expect, an updated version of the Shaggs that’s an improvement over its predecessor. But that’s also like suggesting that strep throat is preferable to herpes. Wiggin’s voice, a cross between Yoko Ono’s croon and a dying antique car horn, starts out flat and becomes less sure of itself any time she goes outside of a three-note range. Supposedly, a handful of these songs were leftovers from the Shaggs days, but really, who gives a shit?
The worst part is that the band she recruited is solid, and they’re responsible for the only listenable moments on the album. With a different singer, “Speed Limit” could have been a solid retro garage-rock raver, and the cleverly titled mostly instrumental, “Wiggin’ Out,” is actually pretty damn terrific. But for the rest of the record, they’re forced to play down to her abilities in the hopes of recreating whatever charm and appeal people pretend Philosophy has, and the result sounds like a Moldy Peaches album, but even worse if you can envision such a thing. Wiggan closes with a cover of Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World.” Indeed.
The only reason why I’m reviewing Ready! Get! Go! is because insufferable walking waterboard Jeff Giles, chose to buy it for me, sending it with the message, “EEEEEEEEEAAAAAARRRRRRMAGEDDON.” So although hipsters are responsible for creating a market for Ready! Get! Go!, Jeff is to blame for this infecting my ears. He probably doesn’t remember this, because he drinks, but I first heard of the Shaggs through a reference he made to them in an e-mail early eight years ago. I should have ended the friendship then and there, but I’ve sufficiently recovered from this experience to enact my revenge, the Chicago Way.
* h/t Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster