Pleased to meet you, won’t you guess my name

Today’s Wall Street Journal includes an article about the alleged dwindling supply of short-and-punchy band names, which notes:

Between takes in a recording studio, Mr. Jones brainstormed about names with his new band mates, including former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, then checked them online. Their first choice, Caligula, turned up at least seven acts named after the decadent Roman emperor, including a defunct techno outfit from Australia. Eventually the rockers decided on Them Crooked Vultures. The words held no special meaning.

“Every other name is taken,” Mr. Jones explains. “Think of a great band name and Google it, and you’ll find a French-Canadian jam band with a MySpace page.” The available supply of punchy one- or two-word band names is dwindling. So, many acts are resorting to the unwieldy or nonsensical.

The article goes on to suggest that in the past, great names like The Beatles were available, but no longer. Today, we are doomed to a future of Them Crooked Vultures. (Or perhaps, to augment the article, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, or The Airborne Toxic Event).

Except that easily available evidence directly contradicts the conclusion, doesn’t it? The past decade alone has seen the rise of lots of chart toppers: The Killers, The Fray, Pink, 50 Cent, Kid Rock, Evanescence, Nickelback, Train. Train! The landscape is officially not bare if a band called Train can break onto the scene and achieve national success within the past decade. Whatever one thinks of each group’s music, they’re all clear, short, punchy, and memorable names.

It’s true that if someone is stubborn or uncreative enough to insist on a band called Bliss or Rain or Caligula, then they’re out of luck. The relatively short window in which anyone could be The Who is past. But there’s always room for a Led Zeppelin, or a Creedence Clearwater Revival, or — even in this past decade! — a Pink.

Now, I’m going to go listen to The Calling and The Script for a little while, while I sit and Muse.

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3 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    Oh, come on. Here are some names of present or recently past huge bands in Japan, each of which is usually, or always, written in English/roman characters:

    Supercar [no longer active, unfortunately]
    Judy and Mary [also broke up; no one by either name in the band]
    Mr. Children
    Love Psychedelico
    Bump of Chicken
    Asian Kung Fu Generation
    Thee [sic] Machine Gun Elephant [garage-style band; see also names of some of their tracks, e.g. “Pinhead Cranberry Dance”]

    To say nothing of the inescapable superannuated boy band/media conglomerate, SMAP. “The words held no special meaning”: Even nonsense names can be evocative; e.g., TMGE’s manages to suggest as much about their image as “Caligula” does, while being more kakkou ii IMHO. (Alas, their music is not necessarily so.) If J-bands can think them up, why can’t Americans?

  2. Anon321 says:

    The article reminds me of a segment from a recent audiobook, The Ricky Gervais Guide to the Future. In it, Karl Pilkington predicts that we’ll need to add more letters to the alphabet in the future, since we’ve run out all the good words. Ricky responds that we haven’t run out of good words, it’s just that Karl’s too uncreative to come up with new ones. Karl challenges him to coin a new word and is shocked when Ricky’s second offering, “scrimpton,” turns out to be a perfectly decent-sounding word.

    Perhaps someday Scrimpton will perform at a multi-day festival, alongside Pavement, The Shins, The Strokes, The Fall, The Rapture, Beach House, Girls, Woods, and The Bug.

  3. Ken says:

    “Today’s Wall Street Journal contains …” Well sumbich, I guess that shows how useful today’s Fox Street Journal has become.

    My two favorite blogs are Concurring Opinions and Marginal Revolution. Under the assumption that naming a band exactly after one of those two might run into a little trademark difficulty, I tried googling “Revolution on the Margin” and “Divergent Opinions.”

    Zero hits on either.

    C’mon, WSJ, stick to what you know a little about.