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Listening

What’s in a Band Name?

What’s in a band name? A meaningless handle dreamt up after throwing enough random adjectives together, or some obscure drug reference/street name/sexual maneuver that will only mean something to the other band members? Or could it in fact be part and parcel of the overall pathos conveyed in the music? I originally assumed it was the last option, since it makes for a good taste filter—I could ignore bands like “Free Beer” or “The Jazzy Fat Nasties.” Then again, plenty of bands with seemingly terrible names make great music that doesn’t represent their moniker.

» Listen to “The Mending of the Gown” by Sunset Rubdown at Anyone's Guess


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I’d love to be in a band named “Positive Disintegration,” “Brutalist Architecture,” or “Psychic Surgery,” but by the time the theme is created, the dream is dead. It’s already a concept band best left to the novelty bin. But we could all wear matching Russian military costumes. It sounded great on paper, but we were better off naming ourselves after the first piece of furniture we saw, and moving on.

» Listen to “Bees Bein’ Strugglin’” by the Octopus Project at Largehearted Boy


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Considering the recent trends in naming conventions (Wolf Parade, Wolf Mother, Wolf Eyes, Frog Eyes, Black Eyes, Black Dice, Black Lips, Black Keys, etc.), bands might as well be nameless. “Untitled Musical Enclave No. 3,934” works just as well. As tempting as it may be to write off these bands as unoriginal, trend-aping, idea thieves, not a single one sounds like any of the others.

» Listen to Blank Dogs at MySpace


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You can’t go wrong with minimalism here. Simplicity allows the listener to be the god of the gaps. If you can get that simultaneous word or phrase that represents the atmosphere and direction of your sound in one swoop, it’s a perfect allegiance. It’s as if you’re not even playing music but just representing a concept, like “inchoate,” and hopefully everyone would sit around afterwards and say “My, that truly was the definition of inchoate.”

» Listen to Phosphorescent at MySpace


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Of course it takes a good amount of control to go from concept to production in the ideal formulation of what that “it” is. The more likely result is that you create with whatever you have at your disposal, and at the end sit around and flip through the dictionary or bathroom graffiti for the best matching representation. And that my friends, is how the Polka Tulk Blues Company became Black Sabbath.

» Listen to “Bodysnatchers” by Radiohead at Can You See the Sunset From the Southside?

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