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Best bands with unintelligible vocals

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  1. My Bloody Valentine

    My Bloody Valentine were the undisputed Kings of Noisy shoe-gazing rock. They fucked up the 1990s for me by releasing the best album of that decade, Loveless, in 1991 – thus making the rest of the decade a bit of a disappointment.

    The vocals were always buried in the mix, and were an interplay between Kevin Shields’ weedy whine and Belinda Butcher’s breathy “oohs” and “aahs”. I saw them live twice, and they were great both times – although one had to be in the “right frame of mind” for it. Ahem.

  2. The Cocteau Twins

    Fey musical collages with Elizabeth Fraser’s deliberately non-language vocals multi-tracked. There were times when you could almost make out what she was singing – and times when there were unfortunate errors of comprehension. For example, my mate Nick ruined my enjoyment of one of the tracks on “Heaven Or Las Vegas” by insisting she sings “Sit on my face”. Check it out for yourself (290K mp3).

  3. REM

    Once upon a time, REM were good, despite -or because of?- the fact that singer Stipe sang lyrics like “She’s a sad tomato” and “Singer, sing me a gibbon”. (Pippa saw them last month, and said they still kick ass, however.) Often, he was intelligble but meaningless, and thus got the reputation for surrealism and sagacity rather than someone who spouts nonsense instead of writing proper words. Yes, that is a note of envy you detect.

  4. Loop

    I saw Loop live several times in the 80s. They were buttockclenchingly loud, and stood completely still, backlit, playing and layering riffs for sometimes up to 10 minutes, occasionally breathing something incomprehensible but menacing into a microphone, before all magically stopping at exactly the same time. Criminally under-rated to this day. (And if anyone has the album “the World In Your Eyes” they could send me, I’ll love you forever; some fucker stole mine, and even Kazaa can’t help me.)

  5. Extreme Noise Terror

    Possibly, I’m cheating here, as E.N.T. didn’t really go for lyrics – more grunts and shrieks into a mic over furious grinding heavy rock. When I was a kid, there was a subterranean club in Birmingham (The Kaleidoscope?) which would host a 12 hour gig on bank holiday mondays, where I’d regularly see Extreme Noise Terror, Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower, S.O.B., Genital Deformities and other luminaries play live.

    I recall waiting outside to go in, in a line of crusties, punks and hippies, when some yuppie in a big car drove past, shouting “Get a proper job!”. As I was a pissed-off systems analyst for AT&T at the time, I took his advice and resigned to go travelling for 7 years. So, if you were a fuckwit yuppie in 1989 with a penchant for haranguing strangers, I offer my sincere thanks to you.

Disagree with this list? Leave a comment!

22 Responses to “ Best bands with unintelligible vocals ”

Comment by Shez

The only line I could ever make out (apart from the song title itself) was, and I quote “… and don’t forget the children”.

I defy anyone (without looking up the words on the internet) to recite the lyrics to Ace of Spades in full.

My Bloody Valentine – excellent and unintelligable, unless of course one was chemically assisted, in which case it was all so blindingly obvious. But I forget why it was obvious at the time.

Comment by Bruce

It’s typical, I think, of Motorhead, that during a song like “Ace of Spades” they should sing a warning to the under 18s about the perils of gambling. Civic-minded to the last. I hope that Silverlake follow their example by writing a song called “Smoking is bad for you” or “Hey! There’s no glory in an Asbo”.

Comment by Ben

The Clash : “Should I stay or should I go” – The backing lyrics sound like…

“I’ve got eels for my supper, cup of tea, bread and butter”

Comment by char

Genital Deformities CD

I doubt it ?

Perhaps they carried on for a long time…but there was a GD LP about 1989 and the Demo Tape was a lil while before it…I still have the demo tape and vinyl….fab stuff !

Comment by jamie

Ok Bruce you can officially die happy. Mate if u saw ENT Napalm Death and Boltthrower (missing terrorizer) you can di in peace. Over here in OZ we just live in this hope to even get close to someone who has actually seen them!
Now Im crying!

Comment by hrb

Korn. Various songs. Not sure if that’s unintelligible vocals I’m hearing or a primitive form of grunting. Goes right along with the music though.

Comment by tom


Comment by Rosa

Early Dead Can Dance with Brendan Perry’s voice caused much trouble to find out the content. Got to know a worthy resource ‘ is the last resort.

Comment by bruce

Ah, yes Rosa, I very much agree. I love Dead Can Dance, but trying to understand the lyrics of some of the songs is a lost cause (like the Cocteau Twins, they seems to sing in their own special language – e.g., Rakim), whereas other songs – mostly those sung by Brendan Perry – read like the kind of poetry that earnest teenagers write in their bedrooms, so it’s really unrewarding even when you do work them out!

Comment by Jim

I’m half-tempted to try reciting ‘Ace of Spades’ now 🙂 It’s not that difficult to understand.

“Virginia Plain” gets my vote for unintelligible lyrics – can’t figure out half of what Bryan Ferry’s singing. Enunciate, man, enunciate!

For earnest teenage poetry, I’d go for the first three or four Iron Maiden albums. Tunes to jump around to, and mopey students don’t sit around in cafes discussing the inner meaning of ‘Run to the Hills’ either.

Comment by chris

i’ve got a loft full of gd cd’s after uk customs finally let us have them (without the covers) got a few covers knocking about and about 80 cd’s of most of the stuff we rerecorded in the early nineties and some new stuff. if you want just pay postage and i’ll send you one out.

Comment by chris

i’m away for the next few weeks but if you drop me an email at i’m sure we can sort something out. i’m always out and about so if i don’t reply for a few weeks don’t worry i will get round to it. (long distance trucker) incidentally the cd’s are the split cd we did with subcaos on attaque sonorique portugal i know some details are on the net about it so read up and see if you really do hate your ears enough before mailing me.

Comment by tshirts

LOL, great post! I love misheard lyrics and the fact that they so often lead to entire song parodies in the same vein as Weird Al and his hits (well, OK, mine aren’t always as good as his are). Have you seen the videos on YouTube about misheard lyrics? One is for the German edition of “Barbie Girl,” and there are several for the Numa Numa song (whatever that is, I’ve heard it used in several things). Basically, they’re entertaining slideshows of pictures or drawing creating in Microsoft Paint illustrating the misheard words. Some of them are indeed quite witty, and so if you have the chance, I highly recommend you drop by the site and check them out. Perhaps your friend could even create one for “Sit on my face.” I’m sure it would be a hit!

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