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.
The Monks are arguably one of the weirdest and most overlooked bands on this list. The Monks were never a well-known band, but their 1966 debut album, Black Monk Time, is now recognized as an important part of contemporary music history. The German band's first and only release included tracks with names like "Shut Up" and "I Hate You," and accumulated a cult following due to its proto-punk aesthetic and dark humor - something completely unusual at the time. The band also claimed to have "invented" feedback.
The Monks began as an R&B cover band, which is evident in some of the songs on the album. Ultimately, though, they transformed into something quite the opposite of a pop group.Are you devoted to this album?
Perhaps one of the most divisive and bizarre albums in history, the Shaggs' Philosophy of the World was released in 1969 to no fanfare or attention. It's a strange, disjointed, often overwhelming collection of songs performed so primitively that some people find it unlikeable and others compare it to free jazz. The legendary Frank Zappa once famously called the band, comprised of three sisters, "better than the Beatles."
Strangely, the group owes its existence to a premonition the Wiggin sisters' grandmother experienced. During a palm reading, she told their father that his daughters would form a band. He forced them to learn instruments, and the resulting album became a cult classic in the decades that followed - even earning a fan in the late Kurt Cobain. The album has been reissued numerous times over the years, something leader Dot Wiggin said she finds astonishing.
"It’s hard to believe. I said to my sister Betty, 'How many times can they do the same CD over and over?' But of course, technology improves every year. It amazes me we still have a big fan base out there, and they’re interested in the same album and songs," she said in an interview.Are you devoted to this album?
The Germs burst onto the punk scene in 1979 with GI, a blistering set of songs produced by Joan Jett. The album would ultimately cement the group's legacy as a trailblazing punk outfit. The band, which featured future Nirvana and Foo Fighters guitarist Pat Smear, released the album before things began to unravel. Singer Darby Crash became dependent on drugs and tensions grew, causing the band to part ways.
In 1980, Crash reformed the Germs for one final show before he died of an intentional overdose days later. Crash became a legend posthumously, and the band's cult status grew in the decades that followed. Today, GI is a beloved punk classic that is seen as hugely influential on the genre.Are you devoted to this album?
Considered a masterpiece by many, Jellyfish's second album, Spilt Milk, was released in 1993 following the departure of two band members. However, songwriters Andy Sturmer and Roger Joseph Manning, Jr., pulled out all the stops to create a dense and layered production.
The band broke up shortly after its release, but Spilt Milk is widely considered a cult classic by fans of sophisticated pop music. One review called the album "ridiculous, grandiose, and lovely, rolling through genres while staying true to the pop-song ideal."Are you devoted to this album?