WHAT’S IN A NAME?

MY RECENT tirade against C*****g C****s (I can’t even bring myself to say it anymore) got me thinking about band names in general. I know this topic has been done to death before, but indulge me. There are some great bands with some godawful names out there. Then again, there are a lot of average bands with great names. Of course, this is an entirely subjective exercise, and I’m sure many of the bands I’m scoffing at have some deep literary-related in-joke related to their monikers – but I had a quick scroll through my iPod and came up with the following lists. Am I missing any obvious ones here? Alternatively, feel free to tell me how ill-informed I am.

GOOD:

The Decemberists (Sounds like some sort of cool, wintry, bookish cult)

Depeche Mode (Sounds cool, looks good written down. Fairly exotic for a group of Essex boys, too)

Dogs Die in Hot Cars (On the fence for this one. It’s unusual, vaguely amusing, and also a valid warning. OK, thumbs up)

Electrelane (See? Good band names don’t even need to be real words)

The Fiery Furnaces (Conjures up images of, well… fieriness. Sounds good out loud, too)

Fuck Buttons (Hell, yeah. Zips all the way)

Goldfrapp (Still trying to find out whether that is Alison’s ACTUAL surname… I’m dubious. Do you know any other Goldfrapps?)

Holy Fuck (I don’t know if they know the particular significance that their name has in Ireland)

My Bloody Valentine (Swap ‘funny’ for ‘bloody’, and you’ve got yourself a more sinister proposition altogether)

The National (Stately. Serious. Suits their music to a T)

O Emperor (Looks good, sounds good, relatively original)

Pretty Girls Make Graves (Would have been better if the band had been all-female, but one of the better Smiths titles to appropriate)

Ratatat (Great to say out loud, sharp, simple, looks good written down. Win-win)

The Redneck Manifesto (Don’t know why, particularly – just one of those cool names)

School of Seven Bells (Love the assonance in this)

She & Him (Sweet, to-the-point, just like their songs)

Soulwax (Original, simple, related to music. Clever)

The Teardrop Explodes (Possibly one of my favourite band names ever. Just instantly invokes amazing imagery)

Teenage Fanclub (A bit twee, a bit cool. A good balance)

This Mortal Coil (Eerie, slightly otherworldly. Very suitable)

Titus Andronicus (We must have a thing for emperors. See also: O Emperor)

Weezer (Contrary to popular belief, they’re not named after Rivers Cuomo’s tendency to wheeze as an asthmatic child. Good story, though)

Wild Beasts (Slightly pretentious if you know where it comes from (a French art movement), but also slightly amusing considering it sounds like something a death metal band would call themselves, not a group of fey Cumbrians)

Yo La Tengo (Spanish for ‘I have it’. Who cares what language it is, though? It’s three words that sound good together)

BAD:

Bananarama (Not cute, not funny, makes me feel slightly ill)

Nirvana (“Heyyyy, know whadd’d be really cool? There’s this cooool Buddhist concept…”)

Foo Fighters (“Heyyyy, know whadd’d be really cool? There’s this cooool UFO theory…”)

Delphic (Makes me think of doing the washing-up)

First Aid Kit (You really couldn’t come up with anything better, ladies? Reeeally?)

Frightened Rabbit (Ditto. Their music is anything but timid, too)

Fun Lovin’ Criminals (They must be pure mad with a name like that. Sounds like something a group of techno-loving skangers from Limerick would call their gang)

Hot Chip (Is there some sort of double-entendre going on here that I’m missing… computer chip couldn’t be that crap/obvious)

Kings of Leon (Far from royalty they were raised)

The Magic Numbers (Just crap)

Metallica (“We play heavy metal, right? So… what about Metall-y. No? Metall-ing… nah. Metall-ica? Bingo! Shut up, James.”)

MGMT (Remember how everyone called them ‘Management’ when they first came out? MGMT is not much/any better)

Modest Mouse (Good band, absolutely shite name)

Noah and the Whale (“Like, y’know, Noah Baumbach, and The Squid and the Whale?” Christ, could they be any more middle-class?)

Pink Floyd (Yeah, yeah. Go on, Floyd bores, tell me about the deep, complex meaning of their name – but any band with the word ‘pink’ in their name automatically loses cool points. Even worse is when their fans shorten it to ‘Floyd’. Shudder.)

Portugal. The Man. (Another one I’m on the fence for. So abstract, it’s almost cool. Then again, so abstract it’s pretentious)

Prefab Sprout (I hate sprouts and I’m not too fond of prefabs, either)

Suede (Of all the fabrics and furnishings to choose from, you pick suede?)

Take That (No explanation needed. Just crap)

Tears for Fears (Ditto. I don’t care if it was the ’80s)

Turin Brakes (Makes no sense. I have no idea what this name means, but instead of intriguing me, it irritates me)

We Have Band (Wow. Just no effort whatsoever there)

Pissed Jeans (Yuck)

Why? (Good question)


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7 responses to this post.

  1. I actually like Modest Mouse. I do have a thing for things that alliteration however. Also I like it’s origin (a passage from a Virginia Woolf book) Maybe I’m a little biased considering they’re one of my favorite bands.

    I really hate ‘Elbow’, that’s lame-o. I also think ‘The Album Leaf’ is an odd name for a band. When I first heard of them I wasn’t sure if that was their albums name and even to this day if I mention the band to people who haven’t heard of them they respond with “Oh cool, I’ll have to check out ‘leaf’…what’s the name of the band?”

    Reply

  2. *Sorry, about the typos, I’m sleep deprived.

    Reply

  3. *And the awful punctuation. I think I can hear the Grammar Nazi’s approaching. “Heil Grammatik!”

    Reply

  4. Posted by Lauren on September 23, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    That’s quite all right, Laura. I’m sure there are a few typos up above, too, in my haste to heckle the good and the atrocious. I have to agree with you on Elbow. Crap name. As a semi-related aside, I remember going to Ticketmaster once, and saying ‘Can I get a ticket to Elbow?’ and she said ‘Whaaaa’? Emmylou Harris?’ (??)

    Reply

  5. I find I don’t like band names that sound like they’d be better album name, so I’m afraid Pretty Girls Make Graves go in that one. Or anything too bloody long, really. Guess I just like them short and to the point.

    Reply

    • Posted by Lauren on September 27, 2010 at 5:15 pm

      But not ‘Oasis’, right, Sara?! Although I still think Oasis is better than Beady Eye. What is that bloke on?

      Reply

      • Yeah, I don’t know WHAT is up with Beady Eye. Not a good name at all, I don’t care what music will end up sounding like.

        From what I remember, the name Oasis was nicked off a venue name that the Stone Roses played at, but who knows if that’s true or not. Oasis isn’t the best name ever, but I’m an indulgent spouse at this point. ;)

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