Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The J. Geils Band

I dislike bands named after actual band members even more than bland band names like The Beat. These bands should use a smidgen more imagination, even if one band member is the main draw. Look at Joan Jett, people. Instead of The Joan Jett Band, she chose Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, which is much better. Ian Drury performed with the Blockheads. Couldn't J. Geils have been performing with the Naked J-birds, for example?

On a side note, I don't have the heart to rate The Pete Best Band. You may or may not know that Pete Best is known as "the fifth Beatle." Did you know that he still performs? Yeah--at Jammin' Java, a venue near me that holds maybe 200 people. Man, he must be kicking himself.

The J. Geils Band: 2.0 (I would have ranked it lower, but I want to leave some room for band names with hideous puns or tasteless/disgusting connotations.)

El Vez

El Vez is a Mexican Elvis impersonator. Check out his web site, which is all decked out for the holidays, just as Elvis would have wanted it.

This is a deftly executed pun. It's funny, snappy, and you won't forget what kind of music El Vez makes.

El Vez: 9.3

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs/ Hot Hot Heat

Let's talk about repetition in band names. Sometimes it is just tedious, as with The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Try having a conversation or writing an email where you use their name more than once; if you're like me, you'll be tempted to call them "The Yeahs" or "The YYYs." It is an amusing name on paper, though.

Hot Hot Heat rolls off the tongue more easily. But what's really great about the name Hot Hot Heat can only be appreciated at one of their concerts. In the time between the end of the set and the encore, the audience started chanting "Hot Hot Heat!" It makes a really excellent chant, especially when synchronized with foot stomping. I haven't been to a YYY concert, so I don't know if the same thing happens there. If it does, it could redeem the YYY's name to an extent.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: 4.6
Hot Hot Heat: 7.0

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Soccer Team

This band opened for a show I was at on Friday; however, we arrived too late to see them. There is a lot to be said for an easily google-able name, and Soccer Team is not one of them. They join the ranks of talented but unfortunately named bands like The Sounds, James, and Pulp. Looking for Pulp-related items on Ebay is a real chore.

Searching for "Soccer team band" brings up their home page, but many links to Soccer Team are probably buried deep within Google. Also, Soccer Team is a pretty generic, boring name to me. Badminton Team would have been better. It reminds me of my sister's story about the excruciatingly hip badminton team at her college. They had shirts printed up which said "Bad" on the front and "Minton" on the back. A band named Badminton Team could have similar shirts produced.

Soccer Team: 2.3

Monday, December 11, 2006

Gogol Bordello

I was researching this band name, and guess what: The singer's name has an umlaut! It all goes back to the umlaut, kids. This band plays hard-to-categorize music that I would describe as "klezmer punk." Someone else called them "a bit like The Clash having a fight with The Pogues in Eastern Europe."

The name has some great sounds that English-speakers don't get to make that often. Saying "Gogol" strengthens your gargling muscles. The momentum of the guttural "o" sound continues with "Bordello."

A few different things are going on with the name's connotations. "Gogol" comes (the band claims) from Nikolai Gogol, a Russian writer who lived during the 1800s. Picturing a bordello during that time makes me think of a lot of velvet and Lapsang Souchong (smokey) tea. A gogol is also a number: ten to the power of ten, to the power of 100. Google takes its name from gogol.

This is a band name that's rich in sound and meaning. And it would look so nice with a few umlauts.

Gogol Bordello: 9.1

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Umlaut, part 2

Which band (or musician) names would be improved by adding an umlaut?

Gnärls Bärkley
Sönic Yöuth
Düran Düran
Prïmal Screäm

Care to add your own?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Umlaut

The Umlaut is not a band name, but if it was, I would give it a very high rating. The umlaut (those two little dots) is a typographic symbol that conveys a doubled sound for a vowel. For example, "cooperate" should properly have an umlaut. Without the umlaut, it would more correctly be pronounced with 3 syllables (coop-e-rate) instead of the accepted four-syllable pronunciation (co-op-e-rate).

The umlaut is the recessive genetic disease of the heavy metal bloodline. It probably first appeared in the name Blue Öyster Cult. It then propagated to Mötley Crüe, Motörhead, Queensrÿche, and jumped genres to infect punk band Hüsker Dü. Hüsker Dü is the only name above where an umlaut might possibly be used correctly from a pronunciation standpoint. But pronunciation isn't the point--the point seems to be to look Viking or something. I love how Spin(..)al Tap parodied this by placing an umlaut over a consonant.

Any band with an umlaut in its name is going to get marked down heavily by me, unless it's an obvious parody. Mötley Crüe, what's wrong with just calling yourselves Motley Crew?

Blue Öyster Cult: 3
Mötley Crüe: 2.2
Motörhead: 2.7
Queensrÿche: 1.5 (major pretentiousness going on here)
Hüsker Dü: 6.5
Spin(..)al Tap: 8.7 (good execution of multiple levels of parody)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Enter the Haggis

I will spare you the revolting picture of a haggis on Wikipedia, but I'll supply a definition of haggis. It's a bunch of sheep organs mixed with some spices and oatmeal, and boiled in a stomach. Mmm--anyone want to come over to the vegetarian side with me? Vegetarian haggis does exist, but I have no idea what it contains. The best-case scenario is probably soft tofu. Now that I've grossed everybody out, I think Enter the Haggis is a pretty fine name for a band. It's amusing and a little juvenile (does anyone need to wonder whether this band was named by a guy or a girl?). The problem is, the name won't age well. Enter the Haggis is unlikely to produce works of genius. If they became really well-known and respected, I think they would be a little embarassed by their name. That's the problem with jokey names.

Enter the Haggis: 5.9

10,000 Maniacs

The power of a name: HS says he thought 10,000 Maniacs was a heavy metal band before he heard their music. We learned through Wikipedia that the band used to be named Burn Victims, which also sounds metal-esque (metallic?). The name was based on a movie called 2,000 maniacs, but I guess 2,000 was just not enough.

This name is fairly memorable and eye-catching, though it poses a problem in the CD store. Will it be filed under T, before A, or after Z? For this reason, I think bands should refrain from using a number or symbol in their names when possible.

10,000 Maniacs: Guest rater HS gives them "a 7.5 for false advertising, because they're not metal. If they were metal, they would get an 8."

Monday, November 20, 2006

I Am the World Trade Center

No, you're not.

I Am the World Trade Center: 0.7

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Destroyer and Pixies

The score of both these band names is boosted by the type of music the band makes. Pixies is a dumb name for a Spice Girls-style band, but it's a great name for the band that features one of the best screamers ever and songs like "I bleed" and "Gouge away."

Destroyer sounds like it should be opening for Slayer or Iron Maiden, but it's really nerd indie-rock in the style of the Mountain Goats. The only thing Dan Bejar (the main/ sometimes only member) is going to be destroying is the mix CD his ex-girlfriend made for him.

Pixies: 8.0
Destroyer: 8.3

The Clash

Apparently my earlier post on The Beat was misunderstood by at least 50% of my audience. I don't dislike those names because they are short; I dislike them because they are bland and show a lack of imagination. (See also The Sounds, whose song "Tony the Beat" I really like, actually.) The Clash is a little bit better. It brings to mind a culture clash as well as being onomatopoetic, and it sums up the angry young raw energy that the Clash represents.

The Clash: 7.5

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Modern English

HS asked me whether I (tender of the '80s flame) had the song "I melt with you" by Modern English. I don't have it, and he was prepared to BUY the CD it was on. In the itunes age, this is clearly deranged behavior. "Life in the Gladhouse, 1980-1984: Best of Modern English" will set you back $16.98. But in addition to that school-dance classic, you get such tracks as Sixteen Days, Dawn Chorus, and Swans on Glass. If anyone can sing those songs for me right now, I'll hand my next paycheck over to you. I am always highly amused when a one-hit wonder puts out a "Best of" compilation. My favorite "Best of"is Toni Basil's. You know, she did "Mickey" and, uh (crickets chirping).

Modern English is a band name that is trying a little too hard. It's too tongue-in-cheek. Like Living in a Box, it tries to sum up the state of the world a little too pithily.

Modern English: 3.2

The Beat vs. The Beatles

I think it's important for bands to show some creativity when choosing a name. When I see a name like The Beat or The Band or The Jam, I think their music is going to be just as bland as their name. (Even though at least one of those bands is really good.) With just a little tweak, The Beat can become The Beatles, a smart and amusing pun.

The Beat: 0.5
The Beatles: 7.5

Tanned, rested, and ready

Apparently my audience has been clamoring for a new post on this blog. My audience of, uh, one regular reader, who shall be known here as Hot Slice (HS). If no one else is reading this, I suppose it's all right to use his nickname. HS convinced me to bring this blog back from retirement, even though he won't leave comments, because of his misgivings about Google-brand applications. Those misgivings are probably well founded, but I'm going to soldier on regardless.

Because not everyone appreciates my talent for instantly divining whether band names Suck or Rule, I am going to introduce a Pitchfork-style scale (0.0 to 10.0) for rating band names.

Let's rock.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Looking at the new, improved Positive Force web site (be sure to check out the "Flyer" section) sent me into a little nostalgia trip about the days when DC Space was still around, the 9:30 club was in Chinatown, and I could stay up past midnight on a regular basis. Some friends and I followed the DC gothic/alternative band Strange Boutique. We were regulars at their shows to the point where we got invited to an after-party with the band, but alas, it was a school night. Before Strange Boutique existed, some of the members were in Beefeater. Beefeater was a vegan hardcore band. Hence, I think their name is a stroke of brilliance.

Beefeater: Rules.

Joy Division

I had to go to an outside source (let's call him Vitamin S) to make sure I knew the origins of Joy Division's name. Apparently it comes from the group of Jewish women in concentration camps that the Nazis used as (unpaid) prositutes. Very dark. How appropriate for a band whose sound seemed to come from "a crater on the moon." To me, Joy Division is one of the great band names of all time. I feel the same way about their music.

As an aside, did you know that May is Jewish-American Heritage Month? I was informed of this today by a mass email sent to me and all of my fellow employees. Not sure why they waited until the 11th to tell us that.

Joy Division: Rules.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Speaking of whimsical band names: Fleadip do have a special sentimental value for me, as they were one of my closest friend's bands during our college years. Fleadip's sound was grunge/hardcore, which is one of the reasons this name worked (see King Lychee/ not taking yourself too seriously). Althoug Fleadip's time in the sun was short, they produced some great T-shirts. These shirts showed a black and white photo of a black cat who had just been fleadipped. The cat was drenched, with flattened ears and a pissed-off expression on its face. That, my friends, is rock and roll.

Fleadip: Rules.


Saladbar is apparently opening for Experimental Dental School. Not to get all eighth-grade, but this is a wussy name for a band. It would look ridiculous headlining a festival. I also can't see many men admitting they like Saladbar. Some whimsical band names can work well, but I don't think this one makes it.

Saladbar: Sucks.

Experimental Dental School

I know nothing about this band, except that they were playing in town last week, according to the CityPaper. The name is definitely weird, and somewhat thought-provoking. It sounds like the name of a horror movie (I'm seeing it as a sequel to Dead Ringers, with twin Jeremy Ironses making a repeat performance). The name tends to lodge in one's mind at least for the short term. Since the band is playing at a small venue here and is likely just starting out, this is a good ploy.

Experimental Dental School: Rules.

...And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Dead

See the entry for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Even the abbreviation (AYSKUBYTOD) is a pain to type.

...And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Dead: Sucks.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Any band name that is normally abbreviated in reviews (here, as CYHSY) is too long. When I say the band name, I also feel inclined to clap my hands. I probably look stupid doing this. Therefore,

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Sucks.


Simple but ambiguous; perfect.

X: Rules.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies

This was suggested as a post by alert reader Kate A. She noted that the band name has good assonance. Also, it sounds really good when said in a Monster Truck Rally voice, always a plus. My problem is that I have a hard time visualizing a screamin' cheetah wheelie. At first, I thought the name was cheeto, not cheetah, which made me think of those wheel-shaped cheetos. Imagining them screaming ("don't eat me!") is kind of twisted and funny. What is a cheetah wheelie? A cheetah with rad dirt bike tricks? Chester Cheetah? I am torn on this band name. Help me out.

Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies: undecided.


Yes, "!!!" is a band name. It's supposed to be pronounced "chik-chik-chik."

People. Please don't name your band something with questionable pronounciation. Chik-Chik-Chik sounds cool. But is every ticket seller and record (I'm showing my age) store clerk likely to know how you pronounce it, or are !!! fans resigned to explaining what the band name is each time they say it? Bands, please don't make your fans feel stupid.

On a side note, I think schwah (upside-down e) is a really good name for a band. People (at least the English majors who make up a plurality of my associates) tend to know how to pronounce the name of the upside-down e, though, which makes all the difference.

!!!: Sucks.

Friday, April 21, 2006


This band name has two major flaws.
1) Ambiguous pronounciation. It's supposed to be pronounced "see say," but one might pronounce it "sissy" or "seese."
2) An asterisk. This renders it nearly unsearchable. Try searching for it on Amazon. OK, never mind, I've done that for you. There are different listings under "Si Se," "Si-Se," "Si*Se (with an accent aigu over the e, which I can't figure out how to do here)," and "Si*Se."

Si*Se are one of my favorite downbeat artists, but guys, you need to do something about your band name.

Si*Se: Sucks.

King Lychee

Let's start with King Lychee, a hardcore punk band from Hong Kong. I was recently lucky enough to see King Lychee perform on their home turf. They rock, and I hope they play in the States someday. Their name, in juxtaposition with their musical style, shows they don't take themselves too seriously. This quality is rarer than it should be, I think.

King Lychee: Rules.

Here's how it works

The rules are simple. I will post a band name (of a real band) every day or two. You comment on whether the name Rules or Sucks. Base your comment on the band name only, not the band's music (if you are familiar with it). I may offer my opinion of the band name as well. Giddeyup!