What’s In a Name?!



Chris lives in Austin, TX, where he once shook Willie Nelson's hand.

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44 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    Explosions in the Sky is a good band. I have most of their records. They hold up well.

    Joy Division was the name of the place where they kept prostitutes in concentration camps during ww2. The name wasn’t meant to be joyful. If anything it is an apropos name given the creepy, haunting, crazed nature of their music.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Well when you put it like that…Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        But on the bright side, the earth is not a cold dead place. That is great album cover, btw, with that title repeated over and over like the writer was trying to convince himself it was true.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Have you seen them live? As you might imagine, they played here a lot in the early Aughts, and I saw them a few times. Each time it was a good show. They sort of put the audience into a trance, but in a good way.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        No. Anchorage is not known for getting any band that is remotely hip. We get D-list summer fair acts mostly. I would think their sound would be good live, especially in a small club.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @chris we’ve entered the dance of animal intelligence again; and I know we essentially disagree there.

        All I can say is someday, sit on a dock of the bay with a harmonica and waste some time watching sea birds.Report

      • Avatar Dog on the Internet says:



    • Avatar Glyph says:

      They got the name Joy Division from House of Dolls. I actually don’t care for the name that much – whether you know the historical origins, or take it as a mathematical statement, it seems to be trying just a little too hard. I prefer New Order (the band as well), it’s a much more ambiguous name – not just as the “new” version of the band, but it also has sort of a faceless/monolithic/robotic feel, a ‘blankness’ upon which you can project good or bad, long before W. appropriated the term (no politics!)Report

  2. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Just band names? I can play.

    My favorite contemporary band name is Imagine Dragons. Delightful, whimsical, clever.

    Weezer. A fantastically self-disparaging name for a damn good band.

    Foo Fighters. Alliterates, and has an obscure historical reference.

    Soul Coughing. ‘Nuff said.

    Gravity Kills. Only one good song that I ever heard, but it was pretty damn good and I’ve always thought the name was clever.

    An aside: if I ever write fiction involving a punk rock band, the name of the fictional band will be “The Urinal Cakes.”Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Oh! I forgot, Ladytron. A more descriptive band name given the product they produce is hard to come by.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        They are, of course, named after this:

        (As an aside, despite sustained effort, I really don’t “get” much Roxy Music, Avalon aside. Solo Ferry is much more like Avalon than this, and I like Ferry too. And solo Eno is fine. But look at those outfits!)Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @chris I hope you’ll finish it. My sweetie and I talk about this a lot, obviously.

        I’m fascinated by the ways some people verbalize the music they here — they need words to recall melody and pulse. And a lot of improvisers think in verbal phrases, I’ve seen teachers teach that way. A Bo Diddley beat’s

        hair cut
        to bits.


      • Avatar zic says:

        And I misthreaded Bo.
        He belongs

      • Avatar Chris says:

        A bunch of the research in the last 10 years has looked at the relationship between language (and language areas in the brain) and music (and areas of the brain associated with music processing). The relationship is complex, and in some ways suggests that they have a common origin, but that maybe the music components are even more primitive.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Seems to me that music would predate language; and that music may have more interspecies connection than language; for instance, the way a single bird might alert an entire community to the presence of danger. Breaking out into song seems contraindicated to a world of danger, too, you’re letting go of defenses and announcing yourself, exposing yourself. Must be pretty important.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I’m not sure how much we can analogize song birds “songs” to music (there has been much research on this comparison), but there are birds that have reactions to music very similar to ours in some ways: parrots. It’s probably not surprising that parrots are both incredibly social (moreso than most birds) and have an incredibly wide range of vocalizations.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Crows have a bonafide, if limited, language (with dialects too). I’m not sure that they’ve got much of an ear for music…Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Kim, you may know of the study from 4 or 5 years ago that basically combed the internet for examples of animal entrainment to music and found basically two types of animals capable of doing it: parrots and one Asian elephant. I think everyone was surprised that, once the capability was reliably demonstrated in parrots (careful study of a couple other parrots, including Alex before he died, made it quite clear that parrots could groove), crows and mynah birds didn’t show the ability, given that they are also very social, very intelligent, have a large range of vocalizations that, at least in some species, appear to be used for potentially complex communication, and, again in some species, demonstrate the ability to mimic vocalizations (including human vocalizations). So I imagine that in the next decade or so, contrasting parrots and crows/mynahs will provide some important insight into some of the biological bases of music. Also, that one hip Asian elephant.Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        A young friend of mine, a few years ago and just off to college, had the sky change color to not blue and a band on full screech constantly. Lot of therapy, lot of ‘why don’t you tell us when you dropped that acid” later, and at a physical, a doctor noticed a bend in his septum. Come to find out, he had a benign vascular tumor growing through his head. They removed it with only minor neurological damage to one side of is face, and the sky became blue and the music returned to acceptable and normal levels. Unfortunately, it’s growing back.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I thought about including Soul Coughing, but I know where the name came from (scroll down to 3.1). But in a way it does work:

      Have you followed any of Doughty’s solo stuff? Some of it’s pretty good, even if he got a bit cheesier post-drugs:

      I went through a painful breakup several years ago and listened to that song over and over. Breakups make us silly.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        I listen to “I Hear the Bells” and “Madeleine” over and over without any particular reason for my silliness.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Maribou, it is not uncommon for me to listen to a single song or two all day. Listening to one as sappy as “The Only Answer” all day (and I like the song, don’t get me wrong!) takes a good breakup:

        you were
        the only answer
        my plans
        spun all around you
        five years in the wrong, I am assured
        my name to you is just another word
        another word


      • Avatar Chris says:

        Aaaand now I’ll probably listen to it over and over anyway.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Reminds me of some lyrics from the Mendoza Line, who often had some great he-said-she-said lacerating duets:

        you are like the moon in the fading afternoon
        like a distant memory
        you don’t mean a thing to me

        what ever happened to you, baby?
        you once were the light that helped to show me
        when I was right and when I was wrong
        and now all you are is a line in a song to me…

        you are like a dream, reoccurring to me
        when I wake, I can’t recall
        what you were saying, at all

      • Avatar zic says:

        @maribou have you read Oliver Sacks’ <a href="http://www.oliversacks.com/books/musicophilia/"Musicophilia? I recommend it, it’s fascinating.

        People hear music all the time.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        zic, I have a draft post that I’ve just never been able to bring myself to finish that’s all about how ingrained music is in us, evolutionarily, neurologically, psychologically, socially. It really is amazing.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Glyph, oooh, see that’s good for a breakup too.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        @chris “All day” is a significant underestimation of my sometimes-silliness in this regard. @zic I haven’t read it but only because I like his writing so much that I tend to hoard his books so that I always have an unread one available if I need it. Just gave one of my graduating students a copy of Uncle Tungsten. I have read a couple of excerpts online, one of which I think talked about people hearing music. Also, I am already aware that people hear music because I have a constant (eclectic, unpredictable, albeit sometimes deeply repetitive) radio station in my head.Report

  3. Avatar greginak says:

    Devo- seems like a perfect name for a band whose philosophy was devolution.Report

  4. Avatar Neil Obstat says:

    Friend of mine came up with “Homicidal Necrophiliacs” for a fictional metal bandReport

  5. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    I have still never listened to The Fucking Ocean, but their name is so magnificent that I automatically include them in any list of superlative things, e.g., “Heller’s later novels never matched the impact of Catch-22, a sublime work on par with Lolita, Citizen Kane, or anything by The Fucking Ocean.”Report

  6. Avatar johanna says:

    I always thought in terms of bands whose music I thought really matched their names would be the Cocteau Twins and Einst├╝rzende Neubauten

    JFKFC and Polkacide are names I love and who given my love for design should be also be given kudos for creating awesome logos off of those names.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Awesome logos needs to be its own topic. A sadly-neglected artform these days. What are bored kids doodling on their Trapper Keepers?!Report

  7. Avatar aaron david says:

    Rudimentary Peni.Report

  8. Avatar Glyph says:

    Well, you guys know I am biased, but Guided by Voices is one of the greatest band names of all time, in the way that it evokes a muse, the massive musical history feeding into Pollard’s music, and the intuitive, spontaneous (slightly insane) nature of the band.

    Amongst Pollard’s methods for keeping his inspiration juices flowing so prolifically is to make up band names first, and then write the song that he imagines a band with that name would write. He would also take that a step further, cutting out random people’s pictures from old magazines and yearbooks, collaging them into “band photos”, and doing the same for that “band” – writing the song he imagines they would.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Also, the post title keeps getting this stuck in my head:

      Not only is “Tobin Sprout” a great name, but the lyric keeps asking “What’s in a name?” (while continually twisting “so bear it” into “Syd Barrett” and “record” into “wrecker”).Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I thought about doing GBV, but then thought to myself, “No, Glyph will do that in comments.”Report

  9. Avatar Patrick says:

    A comment about War Pigs.

    I really don’t like Ozzy’s voice. It just doesn’t work for me, almost always. Nothing that Sabbath did post-Paranoid is even close to interesting to me, at all.

    War Pigs is the exception. It’s an awesome, awesome song. Ozzy’s voice even fits. It’s metal as hell, and it came out in 1970.

    If you believe Bill Ward, all the instrumentation grew out of jam sessions the band did in their early days when they didn’t have a long enough playlist to run a full set playing live.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I haven’t always been a fan of Ozzy’s voice either, but on that song I tend to forget it’s Ozzy at all.

      Plus, the Cake cover is funny.Report

  10. Avatar zic says:

    @chris — off topic.

    My book is hefty. The cover features a spiral. (Knits often spiral.)


  11. Avatar Freeman says:

    I can’t believe I’m the first to mention RUSH in a conversation about bands that sound like their names!Report

  12. Avatar mike shupp says:

    Bands sounding like their name: Talking Heads.

    Bands probably not sounding like their name: Police, B-52s, Grateful Dead.Report