Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Favorite Band Names

This is one of those fun little parlor games that only insecure music nerds play. I would like to say that they play it when they get together at parties, but insecure music nerds rarely shower and never leave their homes. So they blog about it instead (note to self: check to see if “blog” can be used as a verb). The gist of the game is this: What are your favorite band names, and why? Note that this is how it does not work: “I really like U2’s music, so U2 is my favorite band name.” Wrong, Bono breath. Your comments should be based solely on the name of the band. The quality (or lack thereof) of the music is immaterial (except when I think it’s material, as noted below). I’m looking for evidence of creativity in band names. And that’s it, mostly.

So here are mine:

  • The New Pornographers – Brilliant. First, it’s bound to get all kinds of attention from various conservative factions who will wring their hands and wonder what’s happening to the youth of America. Cha-ching. Ring up those sales. But what makes it particularly wonderful is that it’s taken from the title of a Jimmy Swaggart book: Music: The New Pornography. And wow, do they make it well, too. It’s incredibly addicting power pop, and for once it’s an addiction for which you don’t need to be ashamed.
  • You’re Soaking In It – Remember the old Palmolive commercial, the one where the all-knowing Madge tells her clueless friend, whose hand is inexplicably dipped in a bowl of green liquid, that she’s soaking in dishwashing detergent? As if it’s no big deal at all for people to dip their hands in mysterious green liquid while talking to their friends? There you go. You’re Soaking In It only made one album back in the ‘80s. It was terrible. But they had a great name.
  • Birdsongs of the Mesozoic – This was a side project for members of the Boston punk band Mission of Burma. And the really funny thing about this name, a fact which only the nerdiest of nerds could appreciate, is that, get this, birds didn’t exist in the Mesozoic period. There were flying dinosaurs, yes, including Protoavis, Caudipteryx, and Mononykus, but to call these “birds,” in anything but the most euphemistically avian sense, or to characterize their cacophonous squawking as “songs,” is … I’m sorry, where was I? Oh yeah. Mission of Burma was a pretty cool name, too.
  • When People Were Shorter and Lived Near the Water – First, they really were a terrific early ‘90s band who did utterly unclassifiable covers of music as varied as Herman’s Hermits, The Singing Nun, The MC5, The Stooges, and Herb Alpert, and who eventually released a drunken, disheveled punk version of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess – yes, the entire musical. But what a great name. The very specificity of its meaninglessness intrigues me. Kind of like this entire post.
  • Fine Young Cannibals – This was actually a fairly popular band of the ‘80s. And really, if you’re going to be a cannibal and munch on manflesh, there’s no reason to be nasty and Orc-like about it, and you might as well put your best foot and fang forward and impress the style mavens of the day. These were fine, fine young cannibals – natty, stylishly hip, and not at all long in the tooth.

    So what are yours?


mommy zabs said...

Siouxsie And The Banshees- just fun to say! and super original in my opinion.

jimmy eat world- cute. sounds like kid talk.

squirrel nut zipper- silly random (to me)

flaming lips- fun word picture

i'll come back if i think of more.

danthress said...


Sonic Youth
Talking Heads
My Bloody Valentine
Daddy Yanked Me Bald
Butthole Surfers
Fountains of Wayne


five for fighting
the sun
the michael stanley band
all the fallen leaves

woodsmeister said...

OK, it wasn't the most creative of band names, but why diss on my boy Michael Stanley like that and leave out J Geils, Dave Matthews and other The ____ Band leaders?

Anyway, my favorite combination of band name and album is from a progressive jazz outfit called the Startled Insects, who released an album called Curse of the Pheromones. I still have the cassette somewhere, because I bought it just for the title. Luckily it was on deep clearance.

nikkip said...

the smiths: i remember the first time i heard the name of this band way back when, and i thought it must be some religious and boring band with a name like that. little did i know the brilliance behind the name and the fantastic music coming from such a boring name. and of all things, they are led by a man named morissey. can't get any better than that.

cocteau twins: take from it what you wish. i just don't want anyone to think i watched too much of beavis and butthead in college.

nine inch nails: first time i saw this casette tape cover, i thought it must be a girlie band. little did i know!

i know i'm missing a really big one, but this is all i can think of today.

Andy Whitman said...

Dan, you dislike the Michael Stanley Band? For their name? Do you feel similarly about the Dave Matthews Band and The Allman Brothers Band?

My least favorite band names:

-- Meatloaf
-- The Black Eyed Peas
-- Bread
-- The Dixie Chicks

Hmmm, there may be a pattern there.

Andy Whitman said...

I forgot Godspeed You Black Emperor! (or Godspeed You! Black Emperor, as they were formerly known). Any band that moves the exclamation points around when they change their name is okay with me.

Andy Whitman said...

Four other great band names that I'd forgotten:

-- And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
-- I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
-- The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus
-- Screaming Blue Messiahs

KarlandBethany said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
KarlandBethany said...

Worst name: Stinging Petals

It was a band I was in while in Boston. Not a great band and not a band that would go anywhere but a fun past time for me. We were billed once as the Singing Pets as our name didn't translate over the phone lines well.

Andy, if you can Google something the you most definitely can blog something.


danthress said...

Andy, imagine this: The Andy Whitman Band, or The Dan Thress Band. Sounds awful. And, Michael Stanley sounds like the classic Jewish tradition of switching your last name to another first name: aka Hal David, et al.

However, I do like The Band very much.

Anonymous said...

This has been used by several bands, Weird Al, and several websites of questionable content, and although most of the bands who used it sucked, it is still a great name.

"Running With Scissors"

Anonymous said...

"Kings of Convenience"

Anonymous said...

Sorry, keep remembering.

My personal "skin crawling" favorite:

"The Skin Tags"

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, Jimmy Eat World was kid talk. I think Jim Adkin's brother used to say that.

Mine would be:

Five Iron Frenzy (is there anything else to describe the antics of Reese + Co. Not to mention the graphics that accompanied the albums).

The Beautiful Mistake

The Innocense Mission (and so descriptive of the music)

This Beautiful Mess (NL indie rock)

and let's not forget Rage Against the Machine

Karen said...

while i can't think of my favorites for some reason, i can tell you my absolute least favorite:

Hootie and the Blowfish.

teddy dellesky said...


silver jews
the cure
the sea and cake
grateful dead
hypnotic clambake
yakbutter tea party
iron and wine

teddy dellesky said...

oh, and uh...(this could be a sweet band name)

killing joke
dead milkmen
little wings
jesus and mary chain
chuck's junk
flipping hades

Jeff Cannell said...

Man or Astroman
Enoch Light and the Light Brigade
Neutral MIlk Hotel
Dukes of the Stratospere
Farrell & Farrell

teddy dellesky said...


rancid yakbutter tea party

danthress said...

best of the best:

the cure
the smiths

Anonymous said...

My mistake.

The actual name is "Bump and The Skin Tags".


mg said...

my new favorite band name is:
the coattail riders.

i like it because the people in it are in other bands and this is their sideproject. i like the meaning in that they've been riding on someone else coattails.

mg said...

here are band names i've thought about using in the past (dunno if they are good/bad/indifferent):

the ponyslappers
your mom in spandex
trixie and the bumblebees

Anonymous said...

All Time Favorite Name: Question Mark and the Mysterians.

All Time Least Favorite Name: The Dead Kennedys.

Andy Whitman said...

Random comments on the comments:

Scott S. - The band Slaughter is actually named after somebody? Cool. I wish I had a name like that. I always assumed that the name came from the same place that produced Mayhem, Carnage, Pillage, and Plunder.

Scott L. -- Completely agree that The Clash is a great band name. And great band, too.

Thanks for the reminder about Killing Joke, Teddy. You've got to admire any band that takes its name from a Monty Python skit. Which also includes Toad the Wet Sprocket, although I wasn't as crazy about their music.

I do like The Smiths for the audacious blandness of the name (and for Morrisey, too). For the ultimate in audacious blandness in band names, I recommend The The. Yes, you read that correctly. Although The La's are right up there, too.

Other favorites (the golden memories just keep coming):

-- The Dead Kennedy's
-- JFKFC (continuing with the theme)
-- Free Beer
-- The Mermen
-- The Pixies
-- The Decemberists
-- British Sea Power
-- This Mortal Coil
-- The Who
-- Aztec Camera
-- The Psychedelic Furs
-- Why Tori Can't Read
-- Sun Kil Moon
-- Ronald Koal and the Trillionaires
-- James White and the Blacks

John McCollum said...

Worst ever?


Top that one...

Anonymous said...

i personally enjoy

Son Volt
Scud Mountain Boys
Volcano, I'm Still Exited
Dogs Die In Hot Cars
Teenage Fanclub
Screaming Trees
Cheap Trick

Anonymous said...

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
The Normals

The Band (some names are just off limits...)

Mark K. said...

Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band
Painfull Discharge
The Crash Test Dummies

I've only heard the Crash Test Dummies, the're not half bad.

Mark K. said...

Oh yeah, I forgot:

Captain Beefheart

Mark K. said...

One more:

The Bare Naked Ladies

The've lost gigs because of their name.

Anonymous said...

A couple of bands come to mind, one already mentioned.

Fine Young Cannibals, especially because of their album The Raw and the Cooked. The title works great with the band name (cannibals, allusion to meat) and also because it's the title of a book by French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss.

Vigilantes of Love: I love the juxtapostion of the aggressiveness of a vigilante with the idea of love. Plus Bill Mallonee is one of our great song-writers, as I think Andy will agree.

Was (Not Was): never heard them, but the title is fun.

Thanks for starting this thread. It's fun.


Unknown said...

I've just heard a track by Margot and the So & So's...I love it and I hate it at the very same time. Maybe that's a good thing?

Some favorites...apparently all in the "M" category???

Manfred Mann
Modern Skirts
Mother Love Bone

...but my favorite...

The Negro Problem...Stu went off to film school in Colorado and left us waiting for more...

Brian Estabrook said...


What's wrong with 'All the Fallen Leaves'?!

We haven't even played a show and the media already hates us!!



e said...

What about Throbbing Gristle! Come on people!

Or Psychedelic Furs, Temple of the Dog, Screaming Trees, Green Apple Quick Step, Mookie Blaylock....

Your Mom. There's another one. At least as good as Pink Floyd (who I thought had to be a country band before I heard them).

danthress said...


Sorry man, but it's a downer. Maybe it's cause I spent hours taking last year's leaves out of my fish pond.

No worries though. If you're pickin' a band name that some of your friends don't like, at least you're in the game.

My worst band name: Sweatbox. My mom once asked me how my band "sweat sox" was. That sucked.

Anonymous said...


Talk about thinking Pink Floyd was a country band. I was in a music store a few years ago that was playing a bluegrass version of "The Wall." Some band (I don't remember the name) had done the entire "Wall" in bluegrass style. Very bizarre.


jackscrow said...

Some obscure bands from southern Ohio and eastern Kentucky:

"Over the Little Hocking"

"70% Off"

"Red-Neck Pickup Driver On Meth"

"The NASCAR Sticker Bunch"

"The Meth Labs"

And others....

"Call Me Idiot"

"The Additives"

teddy dellesky said...

drive-by truckers
dinosaur jr.
swearing at motorists
the meters

KarlandBethany said...

My mom always thought I should start a band and call it "The Electric Armpits"

But maybe I'll just keep my eye open for a name from the word verifcation suggestions.


danthress said...

names in need of bands:

Sauerkraut Balls
The Dairy Queens

jackscrow said...


"The Preemptive Balls"

"The Phish Sticks" (Condensed versions of jam-band songs)

"The Bris Doctors"

"Mile High Collegen Blow-Out"

"The Old Lady's Workin' Agin" (Actual quote from guy at bar)

"U Git Off My Man"
(Actual quote from girl at bar)

"The Wife-Beaters"

"Cult Kool-Aid"

jackscrow said...

"Timmy's In The Well"

An actual all-girl band (sort of) from Newfoundland.


Anonymous said...

The 90s provided a few goodies:
Toad The Wet Sprocket
Gin Blossoms
Better Than Ezra

Die!Die!Die! is a more recent interesting one, double points for exclamation points and repetition.