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The 12 Strangest Albums With Rabid Cult Followings

Updated June 14, 2019 2.2k votes 565 voters 18.9k views12 items

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Not every great album gets mass recognition. Throughout history, there have been albums that never made an impact commercially but still managed to achieve true cult status. Some of them become beloved for their quirks, while others are simply overlooked classics.

Whether it's Television's groundbreaking punk classic, Neutral Milk Hotel's lo-fi indie rock masterpiece, or Jellyfish's grand, harmony-soaked work of art, some of the best albums remain beloved by few but unknown to many. These under-the-radar records are among the most noteworthy cult albums of all time. 

  • Photo: Norton / Fair Use

    While the Sonics were largely ignored during their time, today they are garage rock royalty. The group's 1965 proto-punk debut, Here Are The Sonics, has garnered a cult following in the years since its release. Renewed interest in the band prompted a return in 2015, with The Sonics issuing their first new release in 50 years. 

    One review praised Here Are The Sonics as showcasing a group "at the peak of its power," though the band admitted to feeling inadequate at the time.

    "Our feeling was we weren’t legitimate because we couldn’t play quality rock and roll with great finesse and understanding of the music," guitarist Larry Parypa said in an interview. 

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  • Photo: Mute / Fair Use

    German band Can is credited with influencing everyone from Killing Joke to Tame Impala, and nothing in their catalog is more out-there than their 1972 album, Ege Bamyasi. The trailblazing krautrock band was anything but conventional, pushing the boundaries of arrangement and relying heavily on inventive grooves and oddball melodic left turns. 

    Singer Damo Suzuki shines on Ege Bamyasi - particularly on fan favorite "Vitamin C," itself a standard bearer for the entire krautrock genre. The A.V. Club notes that the album, which continues to receive critical praise, features "sharper recording and cleaner arrangements" than the band's previous releases. 

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  • Daniel Johnston has been hailed as an avant-garde genius for years, thanks in part to his cult following - and the free promotion he got from Kurt Cobain wearing a Daniel Johnston t-shirt in many iconic photographs. The shirt featured the artwork for his album, Hi, How Are You, and helped catapult the mentally ill songwriter towards stardom. 

    Much of the intrigue surrounding Johnston comes from his mental health issues, which were chronicled in a critically acclaimed documentary. Gretchen Phillips, a friend of Johnston, once questioned why people are so interested in seeing him, and theorized that some might be fans for the wrong reasons.

    "I wonder if people go see him hoping to witness a nervous breakdown," Phillips said. "Do they perceive him as their equal, or as someone they need to coax along and feel safe? As much as the audience may genuinely love his songs, I sense a lot of condescension. That's always bugged me."

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  • Madvillain's 2004 debut, Madvillainy, was a groundbreaking project that brought together two successful underground rappers and producers, Madlib and MF Doom. It was widely praised, with one review calling it "inexhaustibly brilliant, with layer-upon-layer of carefully considered yet immediate hip-hop, forward-thinking but always close to its roots."

    The alternative hip-hop classic went on to become a cult favorite, with Rolling Stone including it on its list of the greatest one-album wonders

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