Concept albums are almost as old as rock music, and they are almost unilaterally ridiculous. This is not to say that concept albums can’t be good – but for every SMILE or Red Headed Stranger, there are two dozen Sweet Baby Apollo, I’m On Fire Eternal or Whatever The Hell That Coheed and Cambria Album Is Called. Some are ridiculous because of their attempts at ‘plot’ that are mostly drug-fueled insanity, others are ridiculous because of their attempts at artistic or political ‘statements’ that are mostly masturbation, and one is a freaking rock opera about the history of Marxist philosophy.
Styx – Kilroy Was Here: The archetypical ridiculous-ass concept album, this is the one that gave us “Mr. Roboto” and thus, many terrible nights at the karaoke bar. Anyway, it is the near future and Kilroy is a rock star. Too bad for him that rock and roll music is outlawed by Not Jerry Falwell and Not Tipper Gore (hey, it’s the near future of 1983). All the rock stars are dead or imprisoned, including Kilroy. The rock star prison is maintained by Japanese robots called “Robotos.” Kilroy overpowers one and wears it as a disguise to escape, at which point he hooks up with the rock and roll resistance. Will they succeed? Who cares! He’s KILROY! KILROY! KILROY!
Tori Amos – American Doll Posse: Four words – “Tori Amos’s Cosplay Party.” Look, I’m just gonna let Wikipedia explain the general concept – “The ‘American Doll Posse’ of the title consists of five different characters that Amos developed, representing different aspects of her own personality.” The entire album is performed as these made-up creatures that live inside Tori Amos’s brain (which has got to be one of the most screwed up places in the known universe) and are based half on Greek mythology and half on BITCH BE CRAZY. Amos wrote fake blogs and performed parts of her live show “in character” to support the album. That’s ridiculous, even for a woman who cut an introspective, piano-driven cover of “Reign in Blood.”
David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: Hey, I know this album is a classic and Bowie is great and everything, but let’s be honest here – it has a plot, and the plot is hilariously retarded. Anyway, it is the near future and Ziggy Stardust is a rock star. Too bad for him the world is going to end in five years which means nobody is buying records. Ziggy gets visited by space aliens who tell him to write songs to let the world know they are coming to Earth. Ziggy is all “The aliens are coming to save us!” but the aliens turn out to be slackers who just want to screw around for a while. The aliens kill Ziggy and chop up his body because they’re like, living black holes and need Ziggy’s parts to make themselves tangible. Or maybe it’s just about a gay Martian who comes to Earth to get laid. Bowie seems to have recanted the first version of the story, and I can’t say I blame him.
Catch Twenty Two – Permanent Revolution: It’s a ska-punk album about the life and death of Leon Trotsky. You remember him, right? Communist, banged Frida Kahlo, stabbed to death with an ice pick? This one is ridiculous because of the concept, but awesome because of the execution – it’s Marxist indoctrination for the Warped Tour crowd. See, you think lyrics like “Today is the day for tomorrow and then some/We can keep this party going for the rest of our lives” are about rocking out and having a good time, but no – it’s actually about overthrowing the capitalist pigs and establishing a glorious Workers’ Paradise. Up against the wall, you bourgeois bastards!
Blue Oyster Cult – Imaginos: This entire album is a trainwreck – it was written and conceived by BOC’s drummer in the 70s, but was only recorded in the late 80s, ten years after they stopped being relevant and five years after the drummer got kicked out of the band. Ouch. Anyway, it is the past and Imaginos is some kind of explorer. Too bad for him he falls under the thrall of the Aztec gods, who teach him how to change shape and send him to Europe, where he meets and kills Dr. Frankenstein. He moves into Frankenstein’s castle, but then he goes back to Mexico and finds a magical mirror, which he steals from the Aztec gods and gives to his grand daughter for her birthday. In vengeance, the gods use the mirror’s evil powers to bring about World War One. What?
John Linnell – State Songs: The first (and only) solo album by the skinny guy from They Might Be Giants. In lieu of his usual songs about being a decrepit old man, being horribly mutilated, and beign forced to look at decapitated heads, this album is full of songs dedicated to various U.S. states. “South Carolina” is about being horribly mutilated in a cycling accident, while “Montana” is about being a decrepit old man in a hospi… God damnit, John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, what is wrong with you? So yeah, an album called “State Songs” where all the songs are named after states, but have nothing to do with states at all. That’s pretty much the textbook definition of a ridiculous concept album.
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