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The Ten Worst Hats in Modern Music History, In Honor of Empire of the Sun

Australian psychedelic popsters Empire of the Sun come to the Music Box this week, playing three consecutive sold-out nights beginning Wednesday. This is no small feat for the scrappy duo, which formed only halfway through 2008.

No small feat, but not without explanation.

West Coast Sound has crunched the numbers, consulted the mystics and shaken the eight ball, and we're pretty sure the group derives its significantly large power from a significantly large source: the insane headdresses that frontman Luke Steele favors.

Out of, erm, respect to that epiphany, we present to you the ten most hideous, god awful, what-in-the-funk-where-they-thinking hats in modern music history.

Empire of the Sun's Luke Steele rocks some bad hat
Empire of the Sun's Luke Steele rocks some bad hat

10. Luke Steele's Carmen Mah-Randa Melon-Topper

In brief: We're not sure if it's the bright and fruity array of colors displayed above his made-up eyes, or if it's those made-up eyes, but there's something about this photo that screams Carmen Miranda gone Chinatown.

The message: "People of the earth, I bring you peace, lo mein and fresh guavas."

Buckethead scares us, so his hat lists less bad than it actually is
Buckethead scares us, so his hat lists less bad than it actually is

9. Buckethead's Bucket Head

In brief: God, wear to start? How about with the grease. Dapper Dan would not approve. On top of that, it's just terrifying, like something from a dimension where demented chicken people pop-lock to the sounds of an eternally strummed Flying V. Oh, wait.

The message: "Oscar the Grouch is my kind of couture."

The Monkees' Michael Nesmith: the most understated of bad hats
The Monkees' Michael Nesmith: the most understated of bad hats

8. Michael Nesmith's Sock 'n' Balls

In brief: While not your traditional bad hat, the cap sported by this member of the Monkees was particularly goofy for its time, making Nesmith a trailblazer in the mangled millinery department. It was the time of the season for loving, not sledding.

The message: "Yeah, I monkey around."

Slash keeps it ugly and classy with a bad top hat
Slash keeps it ugly and classy with a bad top hat

7. The Slash

In brief: What, he couldn't find a bucket to put on his head? Considering its ubiquity, it's easy to mistake Slash's top hat as an acceptable choice in headware, and that makes it all the more foul. That inward slope. The sculpted brim. The fact that the bolo tie wouldn't fit over the top, which implies he never removes it ... all bad.

The message: "Me wear hat. Me look nice. Ooga booga."

Even Bjork wears bad hats on occasion
Even Bjork wears bad hats on occasion

6. Björk's Voltaic Yarbles

In brief: Björk knows what the Animal Collectives and Deerhunters of the world clearly don't -- an experimental artist needs experimental headgear. Unlike that poseur Lady Gaga, Ms. Guðmundsdóttir is all Dada, so when she dropped her caustic 2007 seventh album, Volta, she needed something just as grating to wear.

The message: "My head ees being humped by a yarn-frog."

Parliament is now in session, with George Clinton's Funkadelic number
Parliament is now in session, with George Clinton's Funkadelic number

5. George Clinton's Give-Up-The Hat (to the Cat, who Wants it Back)

In brief: There's only so much you can get away with in the name of the funk, and that "so much" really is considerably more broad than most. But nothing, we repeat nothing, excuses the Cat-in-the-Hat look. Even red dreads and blue dreads.

The message: "One toke, two tokes, too many damn tokes."

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top: bad hat, or roach collection?
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top: bad hat, or roach collection?

4. Billy Gibbons' ZZ Top-Off

In brief: What is that thing? Because from this angle (and every other one), it looks like he either skinned a Muppet and is wearing the hide, or he's used that soldering iron in the corner there to attach every roach he's ever burned down to a dollar-store stocking cap.

The message: No idea, really.

Jamiroquai's Jay Kay looks sharp in his bad hat
Jamiroquai's Jay Kay looks sharp in his bad hat

3. Jay Kay's Vitrual Hatsanity Remix

In brief: Jamiroquai singer Jay Kay has got consistently great taste ... j/k. What appears above is actually the remixed version of the "Virtual Insanity" fuzz-fez, updated for the new millennium with sparkles and imminent danger.

The message: "I climbed the Statue of Liberty and all I got was..."

Conor Oberst, with the Mystic Valley Band, rocked one very bad brim
Conor Oberst, with the Mystic Valley Band, rocked one very bad brim

2. Conor Oberst's Cassadaga Nights

In brief: Former (?) Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst, frankly, made an ass of himself at Coachella 2009. He wrongly referred to his new lineup as the "River City Mystic Mountain Band" and was hit in the stomach by a book hurled from the crowd. But worst of all was his outsize Quaker lid, whose diameter nearly rivaled its wearer's height.

The message: "There truly is no depth to my self-loathing."

Luke Steel and Empire of the Sun for the bad hat win
Luke Steel and Empire of the Sun for the bad hat win

1. Luke Steel's Gift of Shiva

In brief: An elaborate display of gold-dipped tassels, gold-leafed leaves, and marching miniature horses -- gold-plated, of course -- this crown could have only been handed down by a blue-skinned deity who rests on tiger hides and wears live monkeys on his head. That's why it's number one: divine intervention. Now, the gods are laughing.

The message: "I am a lovely Thai princess. Worship me."

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