Monday, October 3, 2016
My Top Ten Favorite Band Names
A band name can’t be judged very easily, and all the criteria needs to be taken in at once and felt out, while at the same time considering the context of the band’s name. One thing I care about is meaning. I appreciate when the message of the band name seems suited to the lyrical content and overall vibe of the band. Also, I really enjoy when a band’s name shows wit or uses language in some clever way, and a personal negative connotation I have with names is if the band’s name includes food or gross imagery. Also, a band name with a ring to it never hurts. Sometimes something just needs to sound good with a touch of relative imagery to work.
10. THE SMITHS
This band name is incredibly generic, but given the attitude and perspective of the band, I like it. Singer Morrissey said it was the most ordinary name he could think of, and that it was time for ordinary people to show their faces. I feel that such a plain name is suiting because Morrissey’s talks about his life so “plainly”. He makes no fuss to directly state in his lyrics what it is he is talking about, though he will do so with sarcasm. The name isn’t just a flat statement, it’s one that is done with Morrissey’s trademarked sarcasm.
9. THE CURE & 8. NIRVANA
I’m putting these bands in the same description because I like their names for the same reason. Both bands are referring to the idea that their music brings them from one state of discontent or illness into a state of enlightenment or wellbeing. I like Nirvana’s band name because the bliss of “Nirvana” is generally accompanied by their logo, a happy face with X’s for eyes, and it brings to mind the artificial ways people can find such bliss, almost demeaning the sanctified sort of bliss such as “Nirvana” as in the eastern form of enlightenment. Similarly, “The Cure” is a reference to something that can fix one’s self, as if people are inherently flawed, or rather, that there is a way to be well. Considering that the band’s name represents an emotional fix rather than a health fix, it represents the condition of the band (again, similar to Nirvana). Both point to the fact that their music leads to betterment, and also pokes fun at what “wellbeing” even consists of. I put Nirvana above The Cure because it required Kurt Cobain to cross over to another culture to come up with the name, and a little bit of digging is fun for creating or understanding band names. Of course nowadays I’m sure everyone is familiar with both definitions of nirvana.
7. THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
I’ve read that the word “smashing” in “The Smashing Pumpkins” is supposed to be an adjective (which makes sense when you remember the band’s name starts with the word “The”). Smashing as an adjective usually means attractive, as in, “You look downright smashing in that suit”, so you know there is some humor with the word association. More importantly, the association captures the image of smashing pumpkins after Halloween; a direct reference to American childhood. I believe the purpose of this imagery was to evoke childhood nostalgia, but not just general Halloween nostalgia, one with a hint of violence (“The smashing pumpkins” rather than “The glowing pumpkins”). It’s also a very common ritual of an era that wasn’t frequently commented on, which could represent obscurity in a general sense, or possibly the obscurity of that hint of violence.
6. PORNO FOR PYROS
The name came from lead singer “Perry Farrell” witnessing massive fires during the L.A. riots which inspired him to comment that the image was like “Porno for Pyros”. Not only does this contextualize the band geographically and historically as an L.A. band formed during the L.A. riots, but it twists a dangerous word like “fire” around with a touch of humor, resembling the mix of emotions that’s found throughout the music of Jane’s Addiction and Porno For Pyros, as well as the added imagery of playing with fire. It also includes a dichotomy which was also present in his band “Jane’s Addiction” which includes (according to Perry himself) a male and female association. He wanted Jane because it is a females name, and he wanted addiction because it had a trashy punk sort of masculine association. Porno for Pyros has another similar dichotomy which includes both sex (porno) and violence (pyros).
Sex and Violence. Think of the lyrics in “Ted, Just admit it”.
5. MINOR THREAT
First of all, it just sounds cool. The name represents the adolescent minors that frequented the local D.C. Hardcore punk scene, and it also plays on the fact that the word “Minor” can also represent something that is of lesser importance. This comes into play with many of the lyrics that don’t address higher political systems like many punk rock groups, but instead targets issues that were occurring within the scene. They issues were of “minor” importance, but the lyrics spoke to the audience about solutions to problems that the listener could actually address themselves. Having started the “straight-edge” movement, this band has had as much far reaching political impact as any, and its name represents the seeds that were planted.
4. SWITCHBLADE SYMPHONY
This is another band that twists contrasting imagery to create their name. Switchblade Symphony actually came up with their name because of the way they create their music, by cutting parts of classical music and intertwining it with goth rock. The name makes one think of violence and elegance all at once, and it fits perfectly with the dark and dangerous yet ethereal and graceful sound. Also, the band name has a beautiful phonetic ring to it.
For as much shit as Courtney Love catches for her conduct, I think the style and theme of her band is badass, and the perfect cherry on top is their band name “HOLE”. First off, it’s a double entendre, which wins a whole lot of points. One of the meanings is a crude reference to the female genitalia. She’s a woman in rock n’ roll, which isn’t standard, and part of the crudeness to the reference could be this perspective to how she feels men view her or women in general. The brash crudeness of this interpretation goes along with her whole punk rock aesthetic (which the 90’s alternative punk offspring became better known as “grunge”).
I don’t consider this a grotesque band name because the concrete imagery still makes me think of an actual hole in the ground, which is what most people think at first, and this first interpretation works just as well as the subtext. A Hole is a dark and unwelcoming place. This metaphor represents the bands lyrical content which often deals with frustration, anger, etc. from being an outcast, misunderstood, or looked down upon.
2. JOY DIVISION
Although the title came from the prostitution wing of a Nazi concentration camp in the 1955 book “House of Dolls”, Ian Curtis’s lyrics resonate with a different take on looking at how one’s joy can be lessened or torn into parts (think of their hit song “Love will Tear us Apart”). Also, a “Division” fits the definition of a disagreement (again, love tearing one apart).
Last, it might not have been the intended meaning, but when you consider that “division” can also represent a place that is disconnected, it could represent the music itself, as in the music being the disconnected part of life where joy can be found.
1. SONIC YOUTH
Music and adolescence. There are so many bands whose name is a term that references music itself, like Radiohead, and others whose name represents being young, like Reagan Youth. Still, there is something about the intangibility of Sonic Youth’s name that I prefer over Radiohead or Reagan Youth because it can’t be contextualized to an era, such as when Reagan was president, or to be even more general, at a time when the radio existed. I like that the name is entirely abstract, and carries a very classic meaning which represents two factors which are present in musical movements.
Also, Some names just sound cool.