mercredi, avril 04, 2007

Band Names

What's in a name?

Eva Wiseman on the long and short of new band names

The Guardian

Once upon a time, band names were simple. Buddy Holly And The Crickets. Bosh. Bill Haley And His Comets. Wallop. In the 1960s, influenced by Buddy's arthropodic bandmates, the Beatles kickstarted the "the" trend. Like weedy sports teams, the Kinks, the Turtles and the Sonics lined up for sweaty audiences.

Fashions changed, plural nouns died and definite articles wilted. See Cream, see Them, see the beginning of a fad for one-worders. Lazy. The 1970s brought drugs references (Dexys Midnight Runners) and place names (Boston), while the 1980s welcomed some full sentences, including Frankie Goes To Hollywood. The 1990s (also a band name) produced creative cultural portmanteaus, like Marilyn Manson, and more uni-worded band names, such as Oasis, apparently named after a Swindon Leisure Centre. The early 2000s welcomed back the "the"s. The Strokes, the Libertines, the Vines, the Hives. But now, mid-decade, mid-MySpace, mid-mash-up and mix-tape, band names are getting interesting again.

I'm From Barcelona, a band containing 29 members and at least one kazoo, are from Sweden. Yes, lies rarely translate in names, but energy, excitement, and nursery-school enthusiasm do, which is one reason why Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are often described as "awesome". I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, a band from Austin, inadvertently supported Justin Hawkins' failed Eurovision attempt via name, while their gentle Texan neighbours Oh No! Oh My! look fantastic scrawled in biro on a school bag, but, due to their central exclamation, make them uncomfortable to drop into muso chat. Imagine a fellow fanzine writer's face if you fail to raise your voice mid-clang. Ouch.

Does It Offend You, Yeah? are a DJ duo who get their dads to stand in for photos. Their moniker makes me want to sharpen my nails in order to scratch their records. Suburban Kids With Biblical Names are, you guessed it, twee to the power of n, while We Work At Tesco But We're Well Gangsta Innit will never live up to their name's comedy potential.

Sam Duckworth stole the name Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. from a Batman computer game, leading a whole rash of geek-themed bands to scour their game shelves for name inspiration. Scuzzy post-rockers from Kent upcdowncleftcrightc abc+start are named after a Sonic The Hedgehog cheat code, while Shut Your Eyes And You'll Burst Into Flames use a flying Super Mario as their MySpace wallpaper.

The cheap power of text messages also spawned hundreds of filthily punctuated band names, sent from God to irritate subeditors. See Yourcodenameis: milo, !!!, who must really, really hate their fans, Go! Team, Gravy Train!!!, ¡Forward Russia! and, of course, P!nk.

So where do we go from here? Will 2008 see the return of the 10" record as CD cases become too narrow for new long-winded names? I pray that the enigmatic punk band :) make it into the charts, if only to hear Steve Wright introduce them on TOTP2. How we'll smile.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007