Musicians love geography. Maybe it's all the touring, which leads to increased atlas consultation. I don't know. But the music world is littered with bands who take their names from various geographic/topological landmarks.
I've long held the view that there is an inverse relationship between the geographic components of a band name and musical quality. The bigger the geographic reference, the worse the music. The more obscure the geographic reference, the better the music. Let's test out the theory.
Obscure Geographic Features
Okkervil River, Speck Mountain, Nickel Creek. Who knows if they even exist on maps? But the bands are great.
City/town bands can teeter either way. They often achieve commercial success that is commensurate with their relative urban importance (Chicago, Boston), but that doesn't make them particularly great from a musical standpoint. On the plus side, we have Beirut, Architecture in Helsinki, and The New York Dolls. On the minus side, we have Atlanta Rhythm Section, Orleans, and The Bay City Rollers. Call it a Wash(ington, D.C.).
Here things start to deteriorate rapidly. Alabama. Georgia Satellites. Kentucky Headhunters. Black Oak Arkansas. Kansas. Granted, I'm not a fan of good ol' boys or '70s arena rockers, but I'm also convinced that there is a twisted bravura at work here that leads to hairy guys in overalls staking out hundreds of thousands of square miles in their band monikers.
Possible counter-argument: Oregon. No, they were New Age hippie dipshits. Never mind.
No, not the dudes in Stetson hats. The band that prompted this post, called These United States, has just released a new album called Everything Touches Everything. Except for Alaska and Hawaii. The album sucks, I think. It's honestly just kind of nondescript. It's not the worst music I've ever heard. It might be the most forgettable. Maybe. The same goes for Spain, Page France, and England Dan and John Ford Coley. If you can name even one song (no cheating, this has to be from memory) from anyone on that list I will personally award you with the National Geographic foldout map of my choice.
Counter-argument: Afghan Whigs, Japan, and Mission of Burma were/are actually good. Maybe the crap is limited to bands named after countries in the western hemisphere. But then there are ...
Asia. Europe. Mercifully, the contagion appears to have stopped there. More dreaded and dangerous than Bubonic Plague, these two bands are personally responsible for inflicting the most bloated, pretentious music ever. Ever. Compared to Asia and Europe, William Shatner's albums are understated and low-key. Compared to Asia and Europe, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey and every other scale-trilling robodiva is a paragon of nuance and tastefulness.
If my theory is correct, sometime in the future a megaband will adopt the name of a galaxy or distant solar system. This will mark the end of the world. Even so, come Lord Jesus.